Monday, 25 January 2016

WBBL Shakedown

The ticker-tape has been cleared up and the MCG has fallen silent after the final of the inaugural WBBL reached an exciting, if rather unprofessional, conclusion on Sunday. It was the Thunder that returned to Sydney with the trophy, probably sharing a plane with their dejected Sixer opponents.

To be honest the final was not a great cricketing spectacle, but then finals often aren't! The Thunder contrived to drop simple catches, and fail to run out opponents who were at one time both on the ground in the middle of the wicket. The Sixers were equally as generous and misfields accounted for three of the Thunder's 10 boundaries. Without them it would have been a much tighter contest. It was therefore probably appropriate that the game finished with a leg-side wide, on which the batsmen ran a single, only to be gifted an overthrow by, of all people, Ellyse Perry, as she fired at the stumps at the bowler's end from two yards away and missed.

But ultimately the rather amateur-standard of the final actually reflects the true current state of women's cricket. There are very few full-time professionals currently in the women's game. Of those who played on Sunday I would suggest that only four players actually fall into that category - Perry, Alyssa Healy, Alex Blackwell and Stafanie Taylor, with perhaps Erin Osborne as another. The rest are effectively amateurs or semi-pros at best.

The fact that the Aussie public seem to have taken the WBBL to their hearts and made it such a huge success would suggest that they can look beyond the odd fumble and dropped catch, and that they are enjoying seeing the girls perform on the big stage. There is a massive wave of support behind women's sport at the moment and the WBBL is surfing that wave. The trick now is to make sure that there are more waves to be caught.

No doubt the top dogs at Cricket Australia are currently in a room somewhere licking their nether regions contentedly. And indeed they have every right to do so. They have invested heavily and wisely in women's cricket. Not only are there decent contracts in place for the Southern Stars (and a willingness to change who those contracted players are), but they have invested in the domestic players playing in the WNCL with all players receiving Au$7,000, and a further Au$3,000 - Au$10,000 if they play in the WBBL. But, perhaps even more significantly, CA shared the cost of getting the WBBL onto free-to-air television. No-one had any great expectations for the viewing figures, but they have been huge, which meant production company Ten decided to switch coverage to their more popular channel and cover more games. The result has been an explosion of interest in women's cricket in Australia and talk of a standalone television deal for WBBL2.

In contrast the ECB, who have also invested heavily, have provided contracts for 19 players, but nothing for those below them. The Women's Cricket Super League this summer will see no salaries for the participants. Instead the ECB will provide franchises with money to cover small match fees and expenses for the players (including those already on England contracts), and the competition is incentivized by prize money for the winning team and the losing finalist, with one pot to be shared by the players and another for the franchise host. That will be very welcome for the 30 or so players who share the prize, but is not so great for the other 60 or so who do not.

As for television coverage we have no news yet. Clare Connor has talked of "positive conversations" with broadcast partners, but nothing more than that. Is the WCSL even outside the ECB's current deal with Sky? Perhaps the success of the WBBL on television in Australia will allow those conversations to produce something positive or for the ECB to commit further investment into television coverage. It is what the competition desperately needs. Without being able to latch on to an existing franchise system for the men, as the WBBL did with the pre-existing BBL, marketing the WCSL and creating a product to inspire the next generation of women cricketers is going to be a tough gig without it being on television. And the coverage needs to be top-quality. In Australia Ten committed exactly the same production techniques and cameras to the WBBL as they did to the BBL. It showed and it worked.

As my Mum used to say "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right!"



  1. Stayed up to watch the final live. It was well worth it. It was a memorable game but couldn’t help thinking it would have been even better with an English player or two in there! Some of the fielding (and running) by both sides was poor at times, but let's not forget we also see comical shenanigans in the men's game sometimes too. For me the low point was Perry’s poor final ball down the leg side and bad miss with the throw at the stumps. It was sloppy cricket to finish on, and as it gets the TV replays it reinforces the idea to those who don’t care to learn much about women’s cricket that the standards are very bad. Let’s not forget it was largely Perry that demolished England with the ball in the Ashes test, and she has been consistent performer in the WBBL.

    "No doubt the top dogs at Cricket Australia are currently in a room somewhere licking their nether regions contentedly"

    It's worth reading this blog just for that line! An interesting, if slightly disturbing image, I'll not soon forget! And your core point is correct - CA have done almost everything right, whilst the ECB have certainly fouled up, especially the Contracts process to some extent. The WCSL is still an unknown at this stage - there is some considerable scepticism about if and how the WCSL will work and whether all the players (especially those not in development squads or above) will be completely on board with it. The one thing I am glad about is no double header with the men's game. That was one mistake CA did make, and the format for the finals clearly didn't work - with the disappointing attendance we saw. They still don't understand how the audiences are different between men's and women's cricket.

    In terms of WCSL media coverage, personally I would be happy with a subscription streaming service (this would be the cheapest way to show it) or local radio coverage, but then I am more interested in the match attendances than viewing figures.

    Meanwhile England's selection problems continue. Recently, the promising Fran Wilson has been left out of the ODI squad against SA so that another experienced but previously dropped England player, Tammy Beaumont, can take the place of the injured Sciver. This is just another sign that the management play too safe and are not willing enough to try out what young talent there is coming through the development system. Personally I would like to see Wilson play against South Africa in place of Sciver; and also Farrant, a seemingly perennial reserve, but so impressive in her punditry stint on Sky, replace Cross, who has looked badly out of form lately.

  2. The WCSL will be nothing like the WBBL and anyone comparing the 2 will be disappointed. The ECB (bravely) kicked off the process and set out the template before seeing the WBBL and with a quite different approach to the WBBL. The WBBL was built on the existing and substantial 'pillars' of the men's BBL and the ECB have nothing like that foundation.
    The WBBL caught fire straight away. The WCSL will be a much slower burner and it might take 2 or 3 seasons to get it where the ECB hope it can go.

  3. As per usual the BBC headline writers have got it wrong - WCSL will not produce England players, only the structure below it can do that and without it the WCSl would not exist. I still wait for a significant revamp of everything below WCSL.

    The T (Terrestrial) word will not be mentioned as Sky is the tied media partner, they will definitely want BBC Radio on board.

    There is no mention of the Performance Academy that has failed to progress a significant amount of potential talent behind the current mature squad. But having the WCSL at Loughborough can only focus its efforts I guess.

    These are brave steps and a long term project but Season 1 of any box set needs to make an impact on a wide audience. In pandering to a new audience the ECB should not lose sight of the core support of the women and girls game. A massive inflow of girls to the game at grass roots post WCSL needs the best possible structure and pathway

  4. As I understand it Sky have the TV rights to all cricket in England? That means either only they can show the WCSL, or else they would need to agree to release rights to another party for individual matches? Barry, when you say ‘WCSL will not produce England players’, yes I agree to a certain extent. Until the WCSL becomes a season long comp, then the domestic bread and butter will still be the WCC.

    1. The WSCL will test the best and hopefully be a stage for a new star or two.

      Sky have used their free to air channel to show sports events (Barca vs Real) the WCSL could benefit from this shop window.

  5. The final was pretty sloppy in places - although the last act of the men's 2014/2015 BBL final was an even more horrendously missed runout - but I though the iconic image from the WBBL final was not Ellyse Perry missing a runout, but this much-retweeted photo of "The Double": It epitomises the "one team" concept which the BBL/WBBL franchises so successfully adopted.

    While I agree playing the women's semifinals and finals as double-headers was a mistake overall, doing so also made this post-match photo possible. The big question for me about the WCSL is: will the lack of an existing franchise (whoops, sorry, "host") infrastructure help or hinder the WCSL - and if the WCSL succeeds, will it, as innovations in women's cricket have before, hasten change in the men's game?