The World Cup Match Day ‘Experience’

The great thing about the ICC deciding the World Cup should be held in England was the easy access to tickets. However, regardless of the spiel that the ICC gave about burgeoning ticket sales, there have been empty seats in practically all of the stadiums – perhaps a backfire of charging an arm-and-a-leg for England games.

With the two gold gooses of cricket being England and India, with Pakistan and then Bangladesh probably third and fourth, I had expected the strong Asian community in our isle to snap up every seat – especially as tickets for some games are quite reasonable. Never mind.

Taking advantage of those easiness of tickets was little old me, who bought one £20 ticket to my favourite ground – Trent Bridge – for the non-drinking section of the ground (as a non-drinker, that was fine by me) to see Australia play the West Indies.

A few days beforehand I’d seen Pakistan play the Windies at the same ground and it had been a disaster. My loving wife gave me a 2-hour lift on the dreaded M1 to Nottingham, and then went off to Derby. I ended up taking a train to Derby after the game finished as early as 2.30pm. She was livid I turned up so early, and so was I.

With the guarantee of sunshine, Chris Gayle, and a closer match, I was excited to get a second bite at the cherry. It was then that I noticed something which had escaped me on my first short-lived trip: Trent Bridge had ceased to be a cricket ground and had morphed into a supermarket. 

Notts were told to cover one of stand names in ICC garb to make sure that the stand sponsor (and Nottingham CC sponsor) John Pye Auctions didn’t get any publicity. Access to the Trent Bridge Inn – the place for a lunchtime beverage during an innings break – was closed off by the sort of barrier Donald Trump would’ve been proud of. Presumably because someone had paid an arm and a leg for beer rights.

Oh, and speaking of Donald Trump, it was harder to leave the venue (to hit the pub) than stay in it, thanks to electronic coding. Sadly, the stewards thought they were the INS, eschewing any of the joy that makes Trent Bridge matches so special. Normally it’s very welcoming and relaxed.

The pitch was even worse. It was adorned by ‘ICC partners’ – including Coca-Cola, who wanted to make damned sure that no-one was going to drink any other fizzy pop (props to the Pakistan fans who rolled in with DIET PEPSI CANS). The giant Coke billboard clearly wasn’t for the fans, but (obviously) for the TV.

And then there were the off-the-pitch activities. Every five minutes it seemed you were told to jump up, wave at this, scream at that – all because the ICC wanted someone to do that at the behest of a sponsor.

Look, we didn’t mind the ‘hydration break’ (sponsored Powerade, the piss-poor version of Gatorade), because that happens at test matches. We don’t mind an Arab airline sponsoring the big screen so we could tell who was out and not out. We get corporate sponsorship because that’s what happens during other sports. We get it: In our consumerist society people are going to try and sell you ****, and you get on with it. 

However, during cricket matches getting overly advertised to is an absolute pain-in-the-ass. It was like the ICC had looked at the IPL and thought: “How can we make this EVEN MORE ANNOYING?” without the cars, cheerleaders and stupid time-outs?

Well, somehow they managed it.  Every two or three overs, it was imperative that people were told to jump up and down to get their faces on a camera. Or wave their sponsored ‘4’ and ‘6’ signs. Or show who you were supporting by ‘yays’ and ‘nays’. It got so aggravating that my next-door neighbour took great joy when I muttered: “Shut up. Just shut the **** up”. 

Then there were the ‘best-dressed fans’, who got a £50 gift voucher (probably to spend at the ICC club shop). Then there was the Brian May impersonator playing a PURPOSE BUILT Gray-Nicolls cricket bat/guitar. Apparently he’s an actual guitarist – or so an ICC worker involved in the off-field shenanigans told me. And finally there was the bloke who’d given his height in cider cans. It just didn’t stop.

Thankfully the game itself was fantastic. Australia looked like they were going to get wiped off the face of the earth until Steve Smith, Alex Carey and Nathan Counter-Nile rescued them. And then the Windies – who had looked comfortable – started to look less like a team of World Cup players than a team full of IPL players (Shai Hope apart).

Cricket is a great game. It just doesn’t need the extras.

Alex Ferguson



  • I won’t be going to any games. I still play cricket on Saturdays , one of few! and work during the week. Quite honestly though i think the whole event is a ghastly charade of what cricket once was.

    Even listening to it on the radio is awful because of the ridiculously over the top commentary and dont get me started on the women ‘commentators ‘

    • Can’t agree with the last comment – I think they’ve got the three best and all are knowledgeable, particularly Alison Mitchell, who outshines a lot of the men on the team.

      • Not difficult to outshine Norman Vaughan and Simon Mann . Totally disagree about Alison Mitchell she has been infected with this ridiculous hyperbolic style …

        < Comment edited to keep the discussion relevant to the article. ed. >

        • I really like Isa Guha actually. I don’t mind them having female commentators actually. Some of the men who get commentary gigs are far worse. Michael Clarke has an impossible voice to listen to.

  • I don’t know where you have been for the last 15 year plus because this has been ICC standard practice for a long while now; it is onerous, bordering on bullying. Still, I suppose it is good to vent on familiar old tropes if not cathartic!

  • I’ve also been to two matches…Eng v SA and WI v SA. The second one was literally a wash out, but being an English cricket fan I am resigned to that sort of thing. I was pleased to spend some of the delay watching some dancing and then listening to Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards. The rest of it……well it was just the usual wandering around and making your own entertainment.

    During the first match, while yes we had 4 / 6 cards and an annoying guitar player I find it very easy to ignore these things. I don’t recall being told to stand up and scream. In fact the only standing up and (almost) screaming I did was after the Stokes Catch. And most of the crowd were standing up at that point, mouths open.

    Unfortunately, as we all know, sponsors are necessary. I don’t like advertising either but it’s not just a World Cup thing. I agree that some of the prices are very high but yesterday’s match in Southampton was £20 for great seats. A bargain (if only there had been more than over 7 overs).
    On a similar note, I also went to a great warm up match (NZ v WI) for about £15. I can’t understand why more people didn’t attend them. Yes it’s not part of the tournament but if you enjoy watching cricket it’s a great way to see the teams you might not normally get to watch.

    • “I also went to a great warm up match (NZ v WI) for about £15. I can’t understand why more people didn’t attend them”.

      I might be able to help you understand why more people (like me who lives 30 mins from the ground) didn’t go to the warm-ups in Southampton:
      1) The WI v A was arranged at very short notice and there was no information available on the starting time or the prices. The match was apparently played not on the main ground but on the nursery ground in front of about 30 spectators.
      2) The E v A match was £25 for a warm-up game (effectively double that when you add parking charges, petrol and catering). The match rules allowed messing about with the XIs that wouldn’t have been allowed in proper games.

      BTW, the third game of cricket I ever attended was an Australia v New Zealand WC warm-up in 1979 played at Arundel, a ground with some charm unlike the multi-story carparks/multiplex cinemas/hypermarkets that is a modern sports’ stadium.

      • Ah ok. The short notice didn’t apply to the Bristol warm up.
        Of course it’s personal preference in the end. I would have paid £25 to see Eng v Aus if I’d been free on the day. I understand the team flexibility in warm ups doesn’t please some. It didn’t bother me and was an opportunity to see New Zealand which I wouldn’t have done otherwise.
        I’m looking forward to my first visit to Arundel next month.

  • I don’t understand why cricket has been infected in this way, as neither footie or rugby have this moronic American style view of everything as a formulaic entertainment with the crowd playing to the cameras, prompted by the organisers. I guess cricket being a stop start affair they want to fill the gaps with as much irrelevant shite as possible. Good to see the game here rejecting the culture of the cheerleader though. Noticeable that the Asian fans in particular take to this sort of stuff like lambs to the slaughter, camera hogging and for your more retrained home fans, hysterically overreacting to everything on the field. Every boundary is greeted with cheering and leaping around like they’ve just won the match, whatever the state of play. Is this just natural exhuberance or a more sinister brainwashing excercise so as to present an appearance of constant brilliance to the viewer and more importantly to potential watching sponsors.

    • I think it’s the influence of the IPL. I get the reaction and happiness and enthusiasm, some of it a bit OTT. In places like India there is an encouragement to be massively enthusiastic.

  • Slightly off topic, but the press comment on Aus v India focused with some justification on criticism of Australia rather than a really tight and well disciplined Indian performance with bat, ball and, in particular, astute captaincy. I found myself wondering first whether England in those conditions would have ‘restricted’ India to 352 and second whether they would have scored 353.

  • I can only assume everything you say is true, Alex. I’ve long-since stopped going to ‘big’ sporting events because (a) they are uniformly too expensive for my pocket, and (b) they have ceased to be the kind of sporting event and atmosphere I want to subject myself to, for a variety of reasons across a variety of sports.

    What I enjoy these days is ‘sport’. You know, one team – or individual – against another. No fuss, no fripperies, just sport. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, or be hyped up to the limit. In fact it’s much better, and more enjoyable, if its neither of those things.

    I’ve spent a few days this summer watching womens county matches. No admission, no nonsense, just cricket. No crowd either for the most part, admittedly, but that just means nobody else to impinge on my quiet afternoon watching cricket. Bliss!

    For the most part, of course, this can apply equally to the men’s County Championship, which remains a pleasure to watch. It should be remembered that cricket was first invented as a ‘Village Green’ game, and it’s still best when it retains as much of that character as possible.

  • Viewing figures for the England games so far from Nick Howson in ‘The Cricketer’:

    “The team has averaged 550,000 viewers across their three group games and though numbers did peak at 1.3m during the climax to the defeat to Pakistan they are an abject return for what has long been billed as cricket’s biggest ever summer”.

    • It’s on pay tv!

      The England women had 6 million watching them in the Women’s football World Cup.

    • It’s another example of the media’s arrogant assumption that their exposure of an event has a defining influence in shaping public interest. If people aren’t that botherered they have a remote to switch over. It’s like any form of advertising, once it reaches saturation point it just becomes an irritant. Non cricket fans are not going to be converted by hysterical publicity. The public aren’t swayed in the long run by razzmatazz in this country, they see through it and get bored quickly. Sports fans want good sporting action above all else, everything around that is a distraction. Sport isn’t formulaic family entertainment. At the top level it’s about specific on field incidents producing largely partisan reaction.

  • I quite agree with you. We are not exactly in a golden age of cricket commentary ! I personally don’t think there’s a decent female commentator on TMS and most of the male ones are, at best, pretty ordinary.

  • Andy Bull skewers the “don’t blame the ECB, it’s an ICC tournament” line that some useful chumps like to spin (he’s writing in the context of TV coverage but it applies to the whole thing):

    “Anyone who is at all familiar with how the ICC works might be surprised to find that it has so much autonomy, especially when the chairman of the ECB, Colin Graves, also happens to be chairman of the ICC’s finance and commercial affairs committee”.

    As usual with Bull, all one can wonder is where were comments like this 5-10 years ago when they might have made some difference? He’s saying “watch out for icebergs” when we’ve been in the lifeboats for three hours.

    • It’s a good article that. I often have to correct people on Twitter who claim the lack of terrestrial coverage either (a) isn’t damaging cricket or (b) isn’t the ECB’s fault.

      The one point Andy Bull doesn’t make (explicitly anyway) is that the ECB have been cosying up to Sky for so long that they obviously don’t mind giving them exclusive rights. I bet it was an unwritten agreement in the broader broadcasting deal that Sky would get the World Cup too, or the ECB would move heaven and earth to make sure that was the case.

  • I hate the endless gambling ads that accompany cricket on Sky. I didn’t realise that fans were encouraged to scream and jump etc. I wonder how that will go down in the North West stand at the Riverside popular with members (England v New Zealand). It’s where the more serious followers sit….I was at the Riverside on Monday watching Durham dig in and fight back after a top order collapse. It was slow work and totally gripping in a meditative way the singles were so precious and a boundary a great relief. Durham crawled to a decent total. There were smiles all round from Durham supporters. It was heavenly in the warm sunshine. Losing is one thing not fighting is another. Since then the weather has changed. Pity it was set up to be a proper match. You realise how you are enthralled by the rhythms of the game. You need time to get drawn in. Nothing of that comes across on Sky. I can’t stand the constant talk of entertainment and the bullish selling of every move. It is really irritating. Like a ringmaster at a circus.

  • Point a camera at anyone and they start acting like morons. That’s not new, but deliberately trying to whip them into a frenzy is. And relentless hyping is, at least in England. Sky have their Hyperpole Duo in Stump Ward and Nasher Hussein. I’m assume they are paid by the word rather than the length of their commentary stint. They never shut up.
    But what really grabs me at the moment is that the Beeb is not showing this important contest but chuffing football which I hate and chuffing women’s football at that, which my son says is about the standard of 12 year old schoolboys.
    The good thing today is that in spite of carp weather around the country, the game at Taunton was able to be completed.

    • IND vs NZ match was abandoned due to rain. This is very important match. I hope india will win this match. But it unfortunately missed due to rain. Then IND vs PAK will be tough.

  • This World Cup is really only for people who can afford it or want to fork out hundreds of pounds for a ticket, or have a Sky subscription. I don’t follow football at all, but 6 million watched it on the Beeb the other night and it was the ladies playing even. Good for them, but this Cricket WC smacks of elitism, and is not for the mass of ordinary cricket fans, despite all the diatribe dribbling out of the mouths of the ICC, ECB and Sky Commentators. I doubt that the bulk of the population even knows it’s on or have even heard of Joss Butler.

  • The women’s footie World Cup gets more coverage than the Cricket if you take Sky out of the equation. I have tried to watch a couple of games but find the lack of intensity makes me lose interest very quickly. There’s some decent passing and control under very little pressure, but it’s all too light weight to be involving. You need the physical side of sport to give it that edge and like the cricket women’s football doesn’t have it. I know women’s sport is in its infancy, but the cricketers and footballers are full time professionals and have to be judged by those standards.

  • It has failed to attract my interest, this world cup, I’m afraid, although I do have tickets for two games at the Riverside, both involving Sri Lanka. Firstly, weather aside, I have been following the County Championship these past two weeks so that has been naturally prioritised over the World Cup; and, buried away at midnight-1am as 45mins highlights (once adverts are factored in) as the World Cup is, it is difficult to feel very ”connected” with it in any sort of meaningful and continuous narrative sense. Further, a combination of hype and ticket pricing means I find myself not really bothering with England much, which is why I chose to see the Sri Lankans and not England v New Zealand at the Riverside, Chester-le-Street: £15 and £55 is a big difference!

    The whole thing comes across as extremely corporate, elitist and smug (e.g., the non-involvement of associates). The sight of Fred walking around with a bunch of people through a town saying ”are you in” was a little hard to stomach given the paywalling.

    Maybe this will change when the two games I go to arrive though.

    Oh yes, I’ve been watching the Women’s FIFA World Cup also.

  • I wonder if Dave Richardson would be singing a different tune about reserve days if it was India or England being rained out of the competition rather than Pakistan and Sri Lanka?

    “Reserve days” could be tackled in ways that tackle the logistics and cost issues that Richardson raised. Nominate one ground and have a minimum four day gap between qualifying and the SFs. That should enable any games that impact on qualification to be played. If not, no system is perfect but at least something like this has made an effort.

    As it is, as some wags have been saying, Rain has more qualifying points than SA. Don’t expect to her any of the comms to make any such observations because, as the Holding row has shown, their role is the same as the bolke with the guitar.

  • More Australian viewers (700k for the India, 620k yesterday) in Australia for their games despite them being on in the middle of the night than in England for England’s games.

  • I don’t know about the World Cup “Experience” , I prefer the Jimi Hendrix Experience myself.

  • Have you considered that the “gimmicks” might be trying to appeal to a younger audience, exactly the kind of crowd that we need to attract to cricket to help it survive in the future?


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