SYDNEY Sixers chief executive Stuart Clark wants the Big Bash to start later in December and coincide with school holidays after flat crowds during the opening weekend of matches around the country.
The Sydney derby between the Sixers and Thunder attracted just half the anticipated 30,000 crowd, while its ratings on Fox Sports were also below average.
“We were all disappointed,” Clark told The Daily Telegraph. “We thought we would have got more.
“I think in hindsight we started a week early. We should be starting once school holidays are on.”
The Melbourne Derby between Shane Warne’s Stars and Murali’s Renegades, which launched the season on Friday night, was also at the lower end of expectations, attracting 23,589 to Etihad Stadium.
Renegades chief executive Stuart Coventry claimed it was always more challenging promoting and playing the Big Bash in December.
“January is better,” Coventry said. “We were hoping for anything from low 20s (thousands) to low 30s and the crowd was 11,500 better than anything we had at Etihad Stadium last year.”
Fox Sports ratings held up well for the Renegades-Stars match, with an average audience of 345,000 approaching the record of more than 400,000 achieved twice last season.
By contrast, the Sixers-Thunder match had an average audience of 237,000, well down on last season’s overall Big Bash average of 282,000.
Cricket Australia attempted to play down the slow start to the much-hyped Twenty20 competition, with Big Bash senior manager Anthony Everard claiming CA was taking a longer term view of the 35-match tournament.
“We’ve reflected on where we were this time last year and we’re actually slightly ahead,” Everard said.
“We’re learning from year to year. Last year we started around the middle of December and this year we’ve started earlier by a week.
“History tells us, all be it a short history, that once we get into the school holiday period, that’s when crowds really do start to fly.
“We’re very confident that will be the case over the coming weeks, particularly given that we’ve got Chris Gayle and the other West Indians joining the BBL this week.”
Clark admitted the Sixers also struggled before Christmas last season.
“We averaged 13,000, then after Christmas we got 27,000, and 20,000 for the final game,” Clarke said.
“Whether the pre-Christmas thing has got anything to do with it, whether there is too short a lead in time between the Test matches and the BBL, I don’t know.
“We may get more next Sunday (against the Perth Scorchers).
“It has to be played during school holidays. They got 23,000 in Melbourne when they were hoping for 30,000 and we fell well short of expectations.
“All the powers from Cricket Australia have been at the last two games and crowds were not as good as they thought.”