Cricket-Nomics – the Economics of Cricket World Cup



By Tim Harcourt*


What an amazing time it’s been for Australia and India lately. With talks of a free trade agreement (on the coat tails of the FTAs with Korea, Japan and China), ‘Modi mania’ in Australia after the G20 as Indian Prime Minister takes Australia and the world by storm with his mandate to build a new India. And then we saw India’s cricket fans ‘The swami army’ swarming into the new renovated Adelaide Oval for the historic India-Pakistan World Cup qualifier.


In fact, the India-Pakistan cricket match was beamed around the world and it was estimated that it was most watched cricket match in the history of the game in terms of TV viewers. Not only that but Indian and Pakistan fans travelled to Adelaide not only from South Asia but from Singapore too and some even came from as far away Toronto to be there for the first ball bowled. Over 80 per cent of match attendees hailed from outside South Australia with large groups of India and Pakistan community making the journey across from Sydney and Melbourne. Indian and Pakistan flags were seen flapping from cars at the border (that is the border of South Australia and Victoria not in the Punjab) and Indian commentators thought Adelaide Airport temporarily looked like any Indian airport in the middle of an Indian Premier League (IPL) series. The Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill hosted a major community function for Indian businesses on the Thursday before the game and an historic India-Pakistan business function was held at game itself. The game itself (which Indian won comfortably) had everything except South Australian tourism minister catching a six which he has done before at Adelaide Oval (maybe next time Leon?).



The huge crowd at Adelaide oval is indicative of how the World Cup has been attracting cricket lovers from near and far and related business opportunities particularly in tourism. According to Cricket Australia’s Jonathan Rose “Around 825 000 tickets have been sold and we expect to hit 1 million by mid tournament.” Rose points out that even cricket newcomers like Afghanistan played to a sold out crown in Canberra against Bangladesh (thanks to many of the Bangladeshi community in Sydney and Melbourne who travelled to the game) and “that’s even before we count the Australia-England or South Africa- India blockbusters.”


As an economic money spinner the Cricket World Cup is growing with partially because the cost of broadcast rights has doubled for the International Cricket Council (ICC) due to the popularity of the game in India – especially the short forms of the game. It is estimated that 70 per cent of the world’s cricket revenue is generated from India that’s why having the Indian team based in Adelaide was important to South Australia and why India is so influential in the ICC.


But how does the cricket world cup compare to other international sporting tournaments? It is estimated that the Cricket World Cup generated around 50 per cent of the revenue of the FIFA World Cup making association football/soccer truly the world game. But cricket makes around 10 times the revenue generated from rugby union’s premier international tournament the Rugby World Cup which is being staged in the UK later this year.


In fact, the cricket- soccer comparison is important in the Australian context as both are summer sports down under (given Australia has 3 leading winter football sporting codes in Aussie Rules Football, Rugby League and Rugby Union) and Australia has hosted a very successful Asian Cup in football that the host team the Socceroos won in a thrilling final against South Korea.

According to Alison Hill of the AFC Asian Cup Local Organising Committee the Australian community really took to the tournament as a whole even in games where the Socceroos weren’t playing. She estimates that: “There were 650,446 match attendees at an average of more than 20,326, with 380,000 attendees to matches that didn’t involve the Socceroos.” The TV audience was again massive with at least 315 million watching the tournament in China, Japan, South Korea Australia and ASEAN alone.


So with the Asian Cup a success and the Cricket World Cup attracting fans globally to Australia and New Zealand, it’s a big year in the economics of international sport. And the associated benefits in tourism and marketing not to mention ‘sports diplomacy’ as exhibited by South Australia’s business hosting of the India-Pakistan match at Adelaide Oval, shows it’s all much more than just a game on the world stage.


*Tim Harcourt is the JW Nevile Fellow of Economics at UNSW Australia Business School and author of Trading Places and The Airport Economist


Thank you to Jonathan Rose of Cricket Australia and Alison Hill of the Local Organising Committee AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 for their generous assistance.


  1. Great read Plug. And great to have bevies with you and Gazza the other night.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Since Adelaide Oval is not used every weekend of the Summer, in the same way that Australia ‘exports’ education to the overseas market, perhaps it could act as a proxy home ground for, say, Pakistan, or host a rotating Test (or other forms) series for the (so called) associate nations.

  3. Very good idea, Swish.

    I’m not sure what other benefits the Pakistan cricket board get from the UAE but the gate takings aren’t filling the coffers. Letting Pakistan host a home test in Adelaide may be beneficial to both the Pakistan board and the SA government. It may also save the Australian cricket team the embarrassment they recently copped in the UAE.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great stuff Plug and the idea of Pakistan making , Bob Neil number 3 home is gaining momentum and as Valdemar says surely we would do better than playing in the UAE
    Plug we need a economic benefit study of Pakistan calling , SA home .
    Indias fans have certainly shown a level above sporting passion than what we have ever witnessed and there numbers of supporters would also have a huge economic benefit thanks , Plug

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