Sheffield Shield goes viral

There was huffing and puffing , breathless indignation and barbed arrows, but with the removal of Sheffield Shield rights from the ABC did not cometh the rapture.

For those that dare take a closer look there is hope that a competition that has been on the missing persons list for a decade may well be trying something new to become relevant.

Yes it is shame for the ABC journos that have genuine interest in the competition, but in the days of multi platforms and streaming, having rights that are given to a radio station to cover bits and pieces here and there on a Saturday and Sunday just does not work for a sport.

If somebody wants to follow the Sheffield Shield ball-by-ball they are not going to switch on the ABC. That time has gone, they’ll follow it on the net, but most likely they won’t even know its on.

The response from cricket journos was fairly predictable , admirably feeling sorry for the ABC colleagues that do have passion for this competition.

However there is an element of groupthink amongst cricket journos that is different to just about every other major sport in Australia.

No other sport is played during 9-5 work times to the extent that cricket is played. It means that what the journalist sees as compared to the fan is very different in cricket as to other sports . The fan simply has nowhere near as much access to the game as the journalist. Compared to football where a fan can watch every minute of play from a weekend just as the journalist does, cricket is somewhat a ghostly sport.

So when a cricket journalist who can follow the Sheffield Shield as part of their day job  rails against a money-grabbing Cricket Australia, it’s not a reflection of the public who has no access at all to anything Sheffield Shield other than web scores.

It also means we are getting a distorted view of what that coverage means and what could be a better coverage .

For example what if in place of weekend half hour blocks of play between 10 other sporting events on ABC Radio , we had a live streaming service on the Cricket Australia website that you could watch every ball of every match – conservatively multiplying the coverage tenfold.

Great idea, and it’s happening right now , and blind Freddie could have told you that’s why the radio rights were cut. But in the paranoia that exists about what any sport does with their ‘media rights’ we were left with howls of indignation that the once great Sheffield Shield was becoming further removed from the people. Nonsense.

There are simple economics at play as to why the live streaming means no patchwork quilt ABC coverage. The Sheffield Shield is an absolutely necessary money drainer on cricket. For matches that gets less spectators than the average suburban football match, the Shield sustains professional sportspeople, and somewhere the bottom line has to balance. While some creativity would in fact alleviate some of these problems  ( ) it will always be battle, and if value can be added to a competition by an undiluted exclusive coverage it only makes it easier.

Bupa are the naming rights sponsors of the Sheffield Shield this season. What comes from them makes the competition sustainable. At the risk of scandalising the romantics, why sponsor a competition that only gets covered by a broadcaster that can’t mention the sponsor that makes it possible. Bupa and others are going to much more attracted to funding the Shield if they can get recognition. So if that comes from an online stream platform that gives cricket fans the greatest access they’ve ever had to coverage of the competition, everyone is a winner.

Currently we have a group of cricket journalists who do a great job in interrogating the sometimes illogical happenings in the cricket world. However in this case let’s not be blinded by existing flaws when there is a genuinely good reform for the game.



  1. You make a lot of good points Brutus. Particularly about the lack of a return to the sponsor on the ABC.
    Weekend sport is background noise to me in the summer, particularly when I am out in the garden. I try to keep up with technology but it will always be on the tranny for me. I can’t imagine me streaming from an app on my smart phone while spraying the roses.
    But I accept that my habits are not those of the emerging sports consumer.
    Thanks for stretching my boundaries.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I am v similar to Peter B but way behind technological wise . It is only recently I have discovered this whole new world I was looking up the scores regularly on cricket aust web site tried to get the stream but couldn’t get it too work several others made the same point so they have to make sure the system works . Brutus the point re the , ABC not being able to promote the sponsor is vital so personally I will miss the shield on the
    ABC but at least now you can get regular score updates
    Interesting article , Thanks , Brutus

  3. Peter Schumacher says

    Didn’t know that the Sheffield Shield cricket was off the ABC! A few years I’d been screaming but now I really couldn’t care less, perhaps paradoxically because cricket is off the ABC! I can see the whole sport going the way of basketball the way things are heading.

  4. Peter Schumacher says

    Should have read, ” A few years ago I would have been screaming..”

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