It has been almost two years since the coronavirus pandemic entered and disrupted our lives. The effects on professional cricket with its dependence on long seasons and international tournaments were obvious – tournaments canceled, interrupted or relocated, positive tests by players, reduced audience numbers, restricted travel, reduced income for organizers, bio-bubbles for players and thus related mental health problems.
Has cricket coped well with these effects?
After the initial shock and bans, administrators responded to the challenges posed by COVID-19 – and the varying policies of national governments – with an ostensible strategy that “the show must go on”.
There will be those who argue that they have no alternative. Failure to play the game at a professional level would result in a loss of broadcast revenue, which would threaten the existence of the game at that level.
This was certainly the strategy of the England and Wales Cricket Board. An early victim of the pandemic was the ECB’s new tournament, The Hundred, which started in 2020 but is postponed to 2021 and is set to continue this year.
The annual financial statements of the ECB as of January 31, 2021 show a loss of USD 22.6 million (£ 16.7 million) compared to a profit of USD 9.1 million in the previous year. Total revenue decreased 10 percent, but administrative expenses increased 16 percent. These were influenced by the formation of bio-safe bubbles that made it possible to continue international cricket with visits from the West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland and Australia in the summer of 2020.
The willingness of these teams to participate was accompanied by the expectation of mutual behavior. This was particularly the case with Pakistan, whose authorities were enraged by the ECB’s late decision to withdraw both men’s and women’s teams from the short visits planned for October last year.
Australia’s tenacious approach to insisting that the current Ashes series must continue may have had less to do with feelings of reciprocity than with a desperate desire to ensure that broadcast and viewer revenues were estimated to be an estimated $ 143 million ($ 200 million) Million Australians) have been realized. While Australia may be grateful to England, attitudes towards Pakistan could have negative repercussions in the medium term.
It is ironic that while other countries have suffered financially from the pandemic, India’s Cricket Control Board has topped up its already abundant finances. An increasing proportion of at least 70 percent of BCCI revenue comes from the Indian Premier League. The addition of two more franchises in 2022 will exacerbate the trend.
In both 2020 and 2021, the BCCI was somewhat reluctant to transfer the IPL to the UAE in whole or in part. This has reduced both costs and revenues. Smaller crowds generated less revenue, which decreased 21 percent for the year ended March 31, 2021. However, only three nearby venues were involved, compared to at least eight in India. Spending decreased 63 percent, which resulted in a sharp rise in surplus funds and a 10 percent increase in net wealth. In addition, viewership increased by a quarter in 2020 as this was the only way India-based fans could watch the games.
No doubt fans and the BCCI will be hoping that the move from the IPL to the UAE won’t be a long-term feature. The venues and governing bodies in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah not only benefited from the IPL, but together with Oman hosted the T20 World Cup between mid-October and mid-November last year when it became clear that the original host nation, India, was heavily influenced by COVID-19 affected.
It will never be known whether the move had a negative impact on the performance of the Indian team, which was deprived of its fanatical support and thus paved the way for an alternative tournament winner. It is also currently unknown whether the move to the UAE has sparked a surge in support and interest in cricket in the region.
If so, it would be in line with the International Cricket Council’s recently published strategy for global growth, which has central goals of protection, growth and empowerment.
Unfortunately, tournaments in a number of emerging markets have been canceled at short notice and one-day ICC international cricket World Cup qualifying events for both men and women have been suspended.
An example of the negative effects of this applies to the Thai women’s national team. It had acquired the right to take part in the World Cup qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe between November 21 and December 5, 2021. Nine teams fought for three places, among five already qualified teams that have already qualified for the finals in New Zealand in March 2022. Thailand led its group when the tournament was canceled because of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 outbreak.
Postponement was not possible, and the ICC announced that the three teams that would make progress would be Bangladesh, Pakistan and the West Indies, based on a ranking system that excluded Thailand as it had not been granted ODI status . It also meant that Thailand missed the opportunity to compete in the ICC Women’s Championship, which would have guaranteed them nine series and additional funding.
However, the decision raises the question of how Thailand and others can achieve a status commensurate with gaming performance. The ICC’s desire to expand women’s participation has been questioned.
Mental health issues in cricket received little attention until recent years, but have accelerated as the effects of bio-bubbles on players and staff have been evident and openly discussed. The longer-term ramifications are unknown, although it likely influenced some players’ decision to retire earlier than expected.
Nevertheless, the show was held on the street and the major events were all able to generate their return on investment. Indian domination and short format cricket continue their unstoppable marches. It is the emerging cricket sidelines and aspirations that have suffered most from the cancellation and abandonment, as Thailand, the US and Ireland have been able to attest in recent weeks.