In our fans’ forum Will Moulton says the increased media coverage of this summer’s Kia Super League is a big step in the right direction for women’s cricket but argues there is still so much more that could be done.
This could be the year for women’s cricket in this country.
Not only is a home World Cup followed by an Ashes tour, the Kia Super League (KSL) also makes a welcome return and is set to be bigger and better than last summer.
Last year’s inaugural edition of the tournament felt very much like a work in progress but the early signs were positive. It was a competition full of exciting cricket, a host of the world’s biggest names and a promising number of spectators, with 15,465 attending the 17 matches.
There was one major disappointment, however: a severe lack of media coverage. Not a single fixture was broadcast live, while the BBC only had the resources to produce ball-by-ball radio coverage for a handful of games.
Therefore the recent announcement that Sky will be showing eight of this year’s fixtures live on TV, as well as the Beeb also committing to cover every round as part of their TMS programme, was understandably met with excitement. It seems that, finally, the women’s game will be getting the coverage it has long merited.
This was definitely the feeling among the players, with former England international Lydia Greenway stating that the media are crucial in the quest to change opinions of women’s cricket.
The classy left-hander and gun fielder, a key member of 2016’s victorious Southern Vipers side, said: “I think any media coverage for the Super League is brilliant. It’s just about trying to get the word out there and make people understand that this is actually a really high-quality sporting event.
“Regardless of whether it’s men or women playing, cricket fans are going to be impressed with what they see so it’s just about trying to raise awareness and any media channels that can do that will always benefit the game.”
It certainly is a positive step, but the ECB have also missed a trick. While it is fantastic that so many games will be shown live, they won’t be available for everyone to watch. One of the reasons the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) was so successful over the winter was that 12 ties were shown live on free-to-air TV, with many of them deliberately scheduled to be played directly before men’s games, providing a warm-up act for television viewers before the ‘main event’.
While this is not ideal, it is a start for women’s cricket and the viewing figures were greatly encouraging. The final alone saw an average audience of 500,000 tune in to watch the Sixers overcome the Scorchers. To put that into context, 1.3 million Australians were recorded as being participants of the game in 2014/15.
However, free viewing opportunities will not be the case over here due to Sky’s exclusive deal with the ECB. While their packages are undoubtedly some of the most cutting edge and in-depth around, Sky only have the potential to showcase cricket to a select group of fans, rather than a whole country.
Broadcasting nearly half the games from the 2017 KSL will undoubtedly help increase the profile of women’s cricket, but it will only do so to a limited market. This is a huge shame because the KSL has the power to grow an audience for women’s cricket in its own right.
It is also incredibly frustrating that there are no plans in place for live streaming. It’s unclear whether this is because of the deal with Sky or just that the ECB have chosen not to employ this tactic, but it’s disappointing they have not gone down this route.
The WBBL also did this really well, making every single match available to fans nationwide across a variety of formats, including the official Cricket Australia app and website. The opening weekend saw 60,000 unique views come from streaming and it would be brilliant to see the ECB adopt this approach.
Even the ICC – so often perceived as out-dated and old-fashioned – have caught on to this, currently streaming games from the 2017 Women’s World Cup Qualifiers despite the two top nations, England and Australia, not taking part.
We all spend so much time using technology that it seems an awful waste for it to be ignored. What better way to attract a new generation of players than to promote it on a platform they understand and use frequently?
Even though there are flaws with the plans, they should not detract from the fact that the increased media coverage is going to help the women’s game. It will have more exposure than ever before and will surely attract a new wave of fans and players. It’s a promising outlook.