Cape Town – The Mzansi Super League has enormous ground to make up if it wishes to get somewhere even close to great southern hemisphere rivals Australia’s Big Bash League for spectator appeal at stadiums.
It is in its inaugural season, so the great hope by Cricket South Africa, who admittedly had to cobble this one together at relatively short notice, will be that it catches fire with infinitely greater gusto for the intended second edition in 2019/20 – when, hopefully, overseas players contracted won’t be coaxed elsewhere at the height of the tournament as has been the detrimental case in the maiden MSL.
There is simply no comparison between attendances recorded thus far in the MSL and those from the most recent (2017/18) Big Bash.
The biggest gate recorded nationwide in our T20 extravaganza is still the opening-night 6,948 at Newlands, when Cape Town Blitz entertained the AB de Villiers-led Tshwane Spartans.
There has been one supposed “full house”, but that was at the smaller venue of Boland Park for a Sunday derby between the Paarl Rocks and the Blitz and, with a figure of 5,544, even that looked noticeably short of the ground’s capacity.
Famous, big-capacity Test venues Kingsmead (Durban Heat) and the Wanderers (Jozi Stars) have struggled to generate the sort of atmosphere required due to the enormous gaps on the stands.
Nor were Highveld derby passions suitably mustered when Tshwane Spartans hosted Jozi Stars at SuperSport Park: a particularly disappointing gate of 2,207 was registered then.
By stark contrast, the last completed Big Bash featured the sort of attendance figures hard-pressed local administrators can only drool over.
The highest home total gate (seven matches) for the 2017/18 season was 246,787 by Adelaide Strikers at the recently rebuilt Adelaide Oval – an average per game of 35,255.
Lowest? Still way beyond a figure any one of the six South African franchises could wish for, as the smallest metropolis in the tournament, Hobart, saw their Hurricanes outfit get 67,680 people through the turnstiles (five matches) for an average of 13,536.
If you were going to argue, and not without validity, that it is unfair to compare the first MSL with the seventh Big Bash, then here’s the state of play when you measure up the proverbial apples with apples: even the inaugural BBL of 2011/12 had plenty of notably healthy attendances.
The highest average home gate then was the 27,424 recorded by Melbourne Stars, with the lowest being Hobart Hurricanes’ 10,517.
Seven of the eight BBL teams, last season, showed better average gates – and mostly significantly so – in 2017/18 than they did in pioneering 2011/12, the lone exception being Sydney Thunder who instead receded from 18,423 to 15,432.
*The best attendance yet for a Big Bash game is the dreamy 80,883 for the Melbourne derby between the Stars and Renegades in 2015/16 at the 100,000-capacity MCG.
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