The 2011 English international cricket season begins at Cardiff this morning with plenty at stake for all three sides. India aim to keep their test No.1 status out of England’s greedy paws, while Sri Lanka hope to spoil the post-Ashes party. But as the summer progresses it won’t only be on-field results or performance that matters. Attendance and revenue will be scrutinised more closely than in living memory.
2010, remember, was the year of the great spectator no-show, with swathes of empty seats during test matches and a hefty slump in receipts. Significantly, even the Oval didn’t sell out. And that partly explains why so many counties took a real smack in the chops, financially. Last season, only three clubs made a profit (Notts, Somerset and Warwickshire) while fifteen made a loss. The test grounds were particularly badly hit, exacerbated by a combination of the the ECB’s eye-watering hosting fees (now revised) and their investment in new facilities. Lancashire, Yorkshire and Warwickshire all lost at least £2 million.
So this year they need our bums on their seats, bigtime. And thus far the picture is mixed. Lord’s is sold out already for the India test and pretty full for Sri Lanka. The Oval still has a few tickets left for the Thursday and Sunday. But none of the non-London grounds (as far as we could tell) are yet fully booked, most worryingly Cardiff – who rather need to get their skates on.
Last season the cricket press speculated at length about why attendances had fallen, and were usually miles off the mark – mainly because their experience of live cricket is so different from ours (they get in free, have the best seats, and Npower pay for their lunch). Usually in these discussions two things happen: Jack Bannister blames the decline in over-rates, and an ECB suit promises more face-painting.
The actual reason is very simple: going to the cricket is expensive. Very expensive. As a quick snapshot, Lords are charging £60 for most Sri Lanka tickets, the Oval £60 for medium-range India tickets, and Edgbaston £46 for the same opposition. Throw in travel, beers and food and you’re looking at £100 a pop for a day at the test. And that’s just for you; try multiplying that by each of your three kids, for example. All in all, test cricket is now such an indulgence (before you even factor in your Sky Sports subscription) that as spectators we’ve become very choosy about what we watch. Pakistan and Sri Lanka, say, are fine cricketing nations, but they don’t get your juices flowing like the Aussies or Saffers do, because there’s no historic rivalry involved.
So in this climate of soaring ticket prices and concerns over falling gates, we’d like to take a careful look at the English cricket spectator’s experience. If us punters are paying through the nose, and the counties need our revenue, the very least we should expect is an enjoyable day and value for money. Throughout the season, if you attend an international (or even county) fixture, we’d welcome your feedback. Here are some of the things you could tell us about:
Price How much were your tickets and what kind of seat did you get for the price?
Atmosphere Joyous (eg, Trent Bridge), vibrant (Edbgaston) or like sitting through a Powerpoint presentation (Lord’s).
Customer service Did the stewards treat you like a valued client, or like cattle? Was there one bloke checking 900 bags while you stood in line, missing the first 10 overs?
Food Somewhere in England or Wales there must be one cricket ground which offers more than stale Ginsters and a £6.50 bacon roll. We’ve never found it. Have you?
Extras Was there anything to do during rain-breaks and lunch? A museum, or a decent shop, perhaps?
Or anything else you experience. Do get in touch, and tell us all about your day at the cricket. The e-mail address is email@example.com, or enter them in the comments section of any post; we can collate them from there. Thanks – and look forward to hearing from you.
I have a ticket for the 2nd day of the Rose Bowl test. It cost £39, which is a bargain compared to Lords. I still think £39 is a little expensive, but at least I don’t feel like I’m being ripped off. I am a massive cricket fan, and I love going to test matches, but I simply won’t pay the £60-90 that Lords want to charge. Now what does that say about their ticketing structure … when even a die hard fan won’t pay it? Lords is becoming a bastion of the corporate – but maybe that’s the way they want it. Stuffy as hell. Once you’ve been there a few times, and sampled the atmosphere, the ‘magic’ of the place wears off. Beyond that, there is nothing that can entice me back for circa £80.
By the way, it is only fair that I should mention that Lords is the only ground, nor cricket the only sport, where this happens. I have also stopped going to Twickenham because the prices insult me. Once you’ve heard ‘swing low’ echo around the stadium a few times, and the magic wears off, you’re left with average rugby, a rubbish station that makes transport to and from the ground a nightmare, plus 30 min queues to use the toilet. Many sports stadiums in this country need to sort themselves out – but cricket grounds are probably the worst.
I stopped going to cricket matches years ago. I was at old Trafford when warne bowled gatt round his legs. I didn’t realise what a good delivery it was until I got home and watched the highlights!
If they are going to get my money (I would have to pay for two kids as well) it’s going to have to be a lot cheaper and much more entertaining than it is now. I get a better view in more comfort in my lounge at home and when you add in the sky subscription even that is costing money.
When it comes down to it, it’s a game and I’m not going to pay £100 to watch a game. It makes no difference to me that they are double ashes winners, it’s the bottom line that matters.
If I could get me and my lads into a game for under £50 and guarantee that it’s not going to rain I would do it. With that as a proviso I can’t see me going any time soon.
Lords was funereal the two times I went and as they like it so sedate, I wouldn’t got again except for domestic matches. The Oval is more fun but the ticket prices at both places are prohibitive.
Thanks for all the comments. The season hardly got off to a promising start yesterday, from a spectators’ perspective. None of the scoreboards were working – why on earth was that? And after waiting around all day, when play finally began at 3.30pm, they took tea at 4.40pm! WTF? Why didn’t they just forget about tea or take it later?
Agree about Lord’s during test matches, but I do still love going to the place. Some of my best days there – with plenty of room to spread out with a decent picnic – have been for the Eton/Harrow game or for the Village Cricket final. Cracking days out that cost very little (unless your picnic is particularly sumptuous!)