With South Africa out of the Champions Trophy, it was only natural that the crowds dipped. But that it happened so quickly, less than 24 hours after the hosts exited, took everyone by surprise. To see barely half-filled stands for an India-Australia clash is something administrators need to take note of.
Ever since the value of television rights exploded, authorities have worried less and less about falling attendances at venues.
But, there are indications that event television ratings are dipping fast, and this no good thing in the middle of a raging debate over the future of 50-over cricket.
In South Africa, it’s not as though the authorities are indifferent to the welfare of fans. Unlike in India, fans are allowed to bring in food, and there are even designated barbecue areas for anyone who fancies a braai. There are plenty of food and drink options and various activities that are designed to give fans an interactive experience through contests and lucky draws.
The one true barometer for the mood in the stands is the Blue Bugler, an initiative of Standard Bank. A bugler roams the crowd, moving from area to area, and whenever he senses the mood going flat he lets out an idiosyncratic trill. This evokes a spontaneous cry of “Ole!” from the crowd. This practice began in the Rugby World Cup in South Africa in 1995 and has since been adopted by cricket.
During the India-Pakistan match on Saturday, the bugler did not get one occasion to do his thing. The noise level, which was high before the game began, was sustained by fans of either side, irrespective of who was doing well.
On Monday, even with the Australian batsmen going well, and India getting back into the game with wickets, the bugler was kept busy, and constantly tried to get the crowd going. The question is, when cricket, the main dish, is not enough to excite fans, how appetising can the side entertainment be?