The Big Bash League needs to get more people interested in watching it live and on TV. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty
The Big Bash League needs to get more people interested in watching it live and on TV. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty

Big Bash needs a Super Bowl-style makeover

The Big Bash needs a Super Bowl-style finish to revive interest in a league built on wow-factor.

The biggest annual sporting event on earth, the Super Bowl will be watched by more than 100 million people just in the US.

Meanwhile, the Big Bash has limped into February with uncertainty and confusion.

The number of games is up but crowds are down and so is the glamour element that made the league must-watch entertainment.

Grounds for the finals might not even be determined until 48 hours before, meaning there's no chance of locking in top-flight entertainment to wow the masses.

One person who worked on the Super Bowl, for one of the world's biggest companies, is Kim McConnie.

When she was based in New York, McConnie was PepsiCo's head of marketing and helped introduce the Pepsi Super Bowl platform to the half-time show.

McConnie is now in charge of Big Bash for Cricket Australia.

Her experience with the greatest sports show on earth has influenced the Big Bash and a Super Bowl-style finish to the season could be considered in the next few years.

That is, a final date would be fixed, cities could bid for the Big Bash final and big-name entertainers would be locked in.

"I love the idea of fixing it,'' McConnie says.

"There's an opportunity to build more hype and leave a little bit more gaps so we can build some hype into it.

"But I think the priority for us at the moment is, just how do we embed a full home-and-away season and make the regular season everything it can be, then we are going to look at finals. I would say in the next couple of years, maybe BBL 10, we'll look at how do we do something different on finals?"

There's been heat on the Big Bash this past week for the length of the season; specifically that it's too long. Over the past two years, Big Bash has gone from 35 to 59 games. It's a lot of cricket - too much, in fact.

But McConnie maintains the extended season has allowed more people to become involved.

"The extended content has allowed us to go to more markets, I think that's an important point, our objective is to be a sport for all Australians," she says.

"BBL can't just be a league in major metro markets. Without the expanded games, Gold Coast wouldn't have happened, Geelong, Launceston wouldn't have happened; they were really successful markets for us.

"While this season is something we are going to learn a lot from, we also need to be conscious of the strategy and the strategy is, how do we take our game to more markets, broaden the footprint, and you need more games to do that."

Crowd numbers are down at Big Bash games. Picture: Mark Wilson
Crowd numbers are down at Big Bash games. Picture: Mark Wilson

McConnie adds: "We are in it for the long haul. This is only our eighth season. Let's get all the insights and see what we need to adjust. BBL has been innovative and disruptive, it's part of its DNA, but for me it's not about being kneejerk reactive. We still absolutely, strategically, believe having 59 games is so important for us to be a sport for all Australians. We need to take BBL to more people across the country.

"Let's not get fixated on the length of the season, let's focus on the strategy, then learn from the whole season and review from there."

There's also been criticism directed at poor pitches. There's been low-quality games and a lack of top-notch stars; such as AB de Villiers, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Sandeep Lamichhane and Ian Bell chose the Bangladesh Premier League over BBL.

But McConnie is satisfied with the international stars they have had this season, including Joe Root and Rashid Khan.

"We obviously always want big names but I think the beauty of the BBL is that it doesn't just rely solely on one pillar," she says.

"We are unearthing local talent. We are unearthing overseas talent.''


Sydney Sixers general manager Jodie Hawkins says she'd like to see improvements to scheduling.

"The finetuning of the schedule is going to be key, especially at the back end, to ensuring the Big Bash remains a success," Hawkins says.

"The Big Bash needs a Super Bowl-style of end. If we finish on a high, we are building into it instead of out of it. At the moment, it feels like we build out of it instead of building into February.

"We need to get smarter about promoting our clubs, rather than the league, because it's much easier for fans to engage in 14 games following their club than it is to engage in 59 games following the league."

More than just fireworks are needed to give the Big Bash some wow-factor. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty
More than just fireworks are needed to give the Big Bash some wow-factor. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty

Hawkins suggests broadcasting 'triple headers' and smarter scheduling post-Australia Day. The Sixers suffered last week with one of their games scheduled the night before school went back and attracted a small crowd of 8083.

"We've learnt this year that the people aren't going to hang around the week that school goes back," Hawkins says.

"That's been a real challenge. We are going to give them a reason to stay engaged and make sure the schedule works for them."

It hasn't been all gloom at the back end of the season. Back when McConnie was installed to run Big Bash, a focus was the growth of women and girls cricket - and the WBBL has been outstanding.

Last weekend's WBBL final sold out and Drummoyne Oval brimmed with fans, some left outside desperately trying to snare a ticket. Next year, WBBL will be a stand-alone competition.

"It's been a huge success, you look at our ratings, we peaked at 830,000 for that game, on a Saturday morning, you couldn't have scripted better games," McConnie says.

"I felt like this season of WBBL, Australians woke up and recognised we've got the best cricketers in the world playing in our competition.''