Empty Stadiums | Biggest Threat to Domestic Cricket?

emoty stands

By: Rvel Zahid

In a recent press conference, the PCB Chairman Najam Sethi, intimated that he was not thrilled with the sparse crowds that attended domestic cricket tournaments in Pakistan. Mr Sethi was inviting sponsors to step in, but is there something that PCB can do itself to lure fans too?

To have jam-packed stadiums in domestic cricket across all formats, there need to be good reasons to persuade cricket fans. For starters, making the ticket booking process hassle-free and on the same lines as Pakistan Super League (PSL) could provide the initial stimulus to cricket enthusiasts. Even better, if the attending spectators’ ticket will allows them to get a souvenir with the ticket it creates a tangible memory for them. This could really get fans thinking about heading to the arena and seeing the action live. In the pursuit of reviving fans interest, PCB could partner with food chains to ensure hygienic and quality food access inside the stadium premises.

In this day and age, it’s hard to stay out of touch with social media no matter wherever we are. In this realm, PCB could partner with Punjab Information Technology Board to set up free WiFi spots at stadiums in a bid to keep fans connected online. This will enable spectators to listen to live commentary and share the big moments on various social media platforms. The buzz created on digital media will further popularize domestic cricket.

Another missing link is the low-key build-up to our domestic tournaments. The recently concluded ‘Quid-e-Azam’ trophy began without any hype, even though all premier players locked horns for their respective departments and regions. Leading to the tournament, the hype was missing as there were no ad campaigns planned around the premier domestic cricket competition. It’s like the tournament starts out of nowhere and fans are caught by surprise; broadcasters could work in this regard as empty seats don’t look good on camera either. Further improving the quality of coverage, commentary, and offering live streaming on YouTube will certainly help reach a wider audience.

International cricket has been coming back slowly and steadily to Pakistan.  Having even one International player on each side will be a revolutionary measure to add more colour and life to our domestic cricket. This is not as far-fetched a measure as you would first assume – both Afghan and Bangladeshi players have played domestic cricket in Pakistan before. Fans need to feel welcomed and facilitated when they enter stadiums from the police and support staff end. Having comfortable seats in the stands is one important prerequisite which will especially help senior citizens, the disabled, and in-fact everyone enjoy the game and not end up with a stiff back. Just as when we go out to movies, not only the movie itself but the seats, cordial staff and the popcorns add to the mix. Thus, it’s not just the game that fans come to watch but the whole experience associated with it. Organizers just need to make sure it remains a memorable outing.

PCB has been renovating the National Stadium Karachi, getting it warmed up for the all-important PSL 3 final on 25th March. This is indeed a step in the right direction. If we could equip venues with state of the art facilities and extend these efforts further out to other cities as well, fans will be compelled to make a visit.

PCB could also kill two birds with one stone by having students fill in the rows as they’ll watch competitive cricket, and it will infuse their interest in the game. Young fans watching cricket close and firsthand could just be the right precursor to unearth next Wasim Akram or Imran Khan. Creating a festive spirit around the domestic tournament season and having the right marketing strategy along with sponsors patronage will help bring crowds in domestic tournaments.