“Organize a match and they will come” philosophy doesn't really work in selling out sporting events—at least when it comes to Pakistan’s domestic cricket. Why would one bother going all the way to a stadium when they could just be a couch potato and binge-watch content in the comfort of their home?
Cricket fans would need solid reasons to travel all the way to the stadium and watch a 'domestic' game—which, as things stand, does not sound like an exciting prospect. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) needs to make some major enhancements and create more value for the spectators to materialize the experience of jam-packed stadiums.
Fans like to feel welcomed when they enter?stadiums after the hassle of going through several security checks from the police and support staff. Unnecessary hurdles and lack of proper parking facilities are a big nuisance. Therefore, there is a dire need to streamline the process. These small steps could go a long way in persuading fans to turn up for the local games. Installing comfortable seats in the stands is a must, especially for the senior citizens. Come to think of it, nobody likes to head back home after the match with a stiff back. Working in the facet of atmospherics is also recommended—having music in the backdrop, spectacular lighting, and creating an overall pleasing ambience lifts up the mood of cricket aficionados.
In addition, preparing lively pitches that offer assistance to seam and swing bowling with enough turn on offer to keep the spinners in the hunt will ensure exhilarating contests. Surfaces that provide batsmen value for their proper shots will help in avoiding low-key draws and dead-rubbers. More than anything else, preparing good pitches will abet players transition smoothly into international cricket.
Let's take the example of going out for movies. It is not only the movie itself but the comfy seats, cordial staff, and the popcorn that add to the mix. In the pursuit of reviving fans’ interest, the PCB could partner with food chains to ensure hygienic and quality food access inside the stadium premises?—especially in Lahore which is known as the hub of foodaholics. Moreover, a hassle-free ticket booking service perhaps on the same lines as the Pakistan Super League (PSL) could provide the initial stimulus to cricket enthusiasts.
In a nutshell, PCB higher-ups must keep this equation in mind when planning out domestic tournaments: Value = Benefits Received – [Price + Hassle]
Another hinderance is the low-key build-up to Pakistan's domestic tournaments. The Quaid-e-Azam Trophy begins without any hype, even though many top players feature in the domestic teams. Leading to the tournament, there is a dearth of television campaigns planned around the country’s premier domestic first-class competition. The tournament starts out of nowhere, lacking any razzmatazz and fans are often caught by surprise. Broadcasters could work in this regard and disseminate the information at least a month before the tournament kicks off.
Empty seats do not look good on camera either and so advertising on the web or television, billboards or in magazines will surely garner public interest who are starved of watching competitive cricket. Sales promotions are another area of focus — coupons, contests, games, rebates and discounted bus rides to the stadium are a few ways to create excitement among cricket followers. Improving the quality of coverage is paramount together with engaging and eloquent commentary that hooks the audience. The PCB may offer live streaming on YouTube in a bid to expand the reach as well.
The PCB could kill two birds with one stone by having students fill in the rows as not only will they get an opportunity to witness competitive cricket firsthand, but it will also infuse interest in the game. Young fans viewing live-action before their eyes could just be the right precursor to unearth next Wahab Riaz or Babar Azam.
In this day and age, it’s hard to stay out of touch with social media. In this realm, the PCB could partner with the Government Information Technology Boards to set up free Wi-Fi spots in stadiums. This will enable spectators to access commentary and share big moments on various social media platforms.
With Quaid-e-Azam Trophy set to commence from 14 September, the PCB could mull injecting money and focus on domestic cricket outreach after decreasing the number of domestic teams and incentivising the players according to the newly promulgated PCB's constitution.