First class cricket struggling to lure fans

File: The lack of TV exposure has also contributed greatly to the demise of first-class cricket. Photo: Marty MELVILLE / AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The fourth round of Sunfoil Series matches have concluded and still, none of the six South African franchises have registered a win this season. It is a startling fact that all 12 four-day matches have ended in stalemates.

While occasional rain has played its part in the delay of some matches, it’s been largely the poor pitches that have contributed to the dull draws.

The batsman-friendly surfaces have seen the batters raise their willows in celebration of a century on more than 30 occasions this season. Much to the frustration of the bowlers who have had to toil hard on flat pitches.

Of course, most cricket fans would have missed the action of watching these big knocks as the Sunfoil Series is not broadcast on television.

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The four-day game seems to lack the commercial value for major sponsors and broadcasters to come on board.

Furthermore, fans don't seem to be bothered to attend four-day domestic cricket despite having free access to watch these games at all the venues.

Proteas coach Ottis Gibson was alarmed this week over the lack of crowd support during four-day games.

The West Indian was quite rightly bemused by the current state of unlimited overs cricket in SA as back in the 90s and early 2000s the crowd attendances were much better during his playing days for Border, Griqualand West and Gauteng.

The marketing potential of the first-class game has deteriorated over the years. It hasn't been helped by the inception of the T20 game.

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With the proliferation of T20 tournaments around the world, many modern cricketers have opted to specialise in the shorter format and snubbing the four-day game.

Also there is a lack of star pulling power at these matches as the congested international schedule doesn't allow many Proteas to play for their franchises.

It will be unfair to blame the poor turnouts solely on the dull draws on offer this season. As the lack of TV exposure has also contributed greatly to the demise of first-class cricket.

In the past, the longest format used to be broadcast occasionally on television allowing more spectators to follow it. And with the TV blackout, the four-day game will continue to be played in front of a handful of spectators.
 

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