SUMMER’S almost here.
The lifesavers are on the beach, the frangipanis are in bloom and the bloke’s test cricket team is gearing up for an Ashes battle.
(In case you missed it, the women’s team fought for the Ashes too — and won — last week. But, I digress.
The men’s test team has been announced and, as always, there’s controversy.
Is Tim Paine the man to inject dependability into the middle order? Does Shaun Marsh really deserve another chance to prove himself?
So many of the same debates — year in, year out. And speaking of more of the same, long term cricket broadcaster Channel Nine announced its Ashes commentary team on Friday:
Seven former Australian test greats — and Mark Nicholas. Predictable and overtly lacking diversity.
I spoke to several highly respected former female players and commentators after the announcement — none were even approached. I don’t think that’s good enough.
Australia is all about a fair go. We’re a nation wanting to move forward. A nation willing to stand up for and define ourselves by our diversity. We saw this first-hand with the majority voting to support marriage equality.
“Nine’s sports coverage has plenty of racist, sexist and homophobic commentary. This commentary team does not assist a network which is already seen as living in the past,” Mary Konstantopoulos told me.
She’s the founder of the Ladies Who Legspin podcast and a passionate cricket fanatic.
“This is not just about gender in cricket — this is about diversity — in every sense of the word. I’m not questioning the appointed commentators’ talents or wanting anyone sacked. I want to know why don’t we add diverse talent to the line up instead of going backwards like this? Channel Nine has no idea.”
This problem is not isolated to just Channel Nine. Seven unveiled their AFL commentary team this year — notice anything?
Almost a third of Australians were born overseas and women outnumber men — 51% of the population is female.
Ignoring these facts is offensive. But more importantly for corporates like Nine and Seven, it’s just bad business.
Recent Roy Morgan research shows women’s participation in cricket is up and more than one million women ‘almost always’ watch Test and One-Day cricket. That’s about a third of the devoted television audience. Women also make the majority of buying decisions in households.
Alienate that audience at your fiscal peril.
It’s pretty simple really — treat the cricket fans (and prospective audience) with more respect. Identify a role for strong female and strong multicultural voices in the coverage of sport. The business fundamentals will follow.
Rival broadcaster Fox Sports acknowledged and acted upon this last year creating Australian TV’s first female only sports magazine show — League Life. It’s been a huge success and is one of the most popular shows on subscription television week in, week out. The addition of strong female commentators and analysts from diverse backgrounds a key factor in the success of their 24 hour rugby league channel launch.
The decision to supplement a stale commentary panel with a diversity of voices is not only the right thing to do, it makes strategic and financial sense.
Cricket Australia receives almost $4.5 million dollars in taxpayers’ money each year. I asked if they approve Nine’s commentary team before the announcement. They referred me to the Network. Nine never responded.
The only thing Cricket Australia would say: “We are a sport for all”.
Indeed. Time to match the rhetoric with action.