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Exclusive: Nick Hockley Comments On Summer Of Cricket

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n an exclusive interview with Ministry of Sport, Cricket Australia (CA) interim CEO, Nick Hockley, reflected on the 2020/21 summer of cricket and how the support from commercial partners helped CA make it through.

Talking about making it from the shutdown of worldwide sport at the beginning of 2020 immediately after the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia, to delivering a full summer schedule of cricket, Hockley said: “It’s been such an eventful summer, it’s been a summer like no other and cricket’s been really fortunate we were largely able to complete the summer before.”

“The previous event I worked on was the women’s T20 World Cup, which took place at the MCG on International Women’s Day and was really the last major event before the world change and before the pandemic.

“It remains the highest attended sporting event throughout 2020.

“Through the cricket off-season last year, we were thinking how COVID would impact the next summer, and now it’s all wrapping up.

“We’ve now played the entirety of the BBL and WBBL, and we also had a historic test series against India.

“When you think about which sports have been able to play their entire season uninterrupted, we can only think of three, one being the NFL, then the others being the BBL and the WBBL.

“In that respect, we’ve been really fortunate, but it’s been a huge amount of work for everyone across Australian cricket, our partners, and our venues.

“It’s required a lot of agility, a lot of problem solving, a lot of support from a lot of different organisations.

“Ultimately, the fact we’ve been able to play a full summer has been a real source of optimism and hope that we’re getting back some level of normality,” Hockley told Ministry of Sport.

When asked about the broadcast rights feud with Seven West Media, which dominated cricket headlines throughout the summer and is still ongoing, Hockley said the support of CA’s production and operational teams, along with all other sponsors, has been impressive.

“The production teams and our operational teams with both our domestic broadcast partners have done a phenomenal job to bring the full season to not just fans here in Australia, but also around the world,” Hockley said.

“Seven expressed very early on, before the season started, they were concerned about what might happen and we’ve been very consistent that what we will focus on is making sure we work together across Australian cricket to deliver the fullest and best possible summer.

“Thankfully that’s what we’ve been able to do.

“It has been disappointing and also quite counter-intuitive to see them talk the sport down in the public domain.

“I have to say our partners have all been so supportive and I can’t thank them enough.

“I think about Qantas, who have themselves probably been impacted more than anyone in Australia, yet they continue to support us, providing chartered planes so we can fly our cricketers all around the country and to New Zealand,” he said.

Going into more depth on the role CA’s commercial partners played in helping deliver the summer of cricket, Hockley said the sport and competitions found a way to bring everyone together thanks to the support from partners.

“A feature of this summer is the fantastic support from our longstanding partners, but we’ve also brought on some new partners,” Hockley said.

“We welcomed Vodafone back to cricket and we also just started on the fantastic purpose-led partnership with Dettol, who’ve really helped us get back to both community and elite cricket safely.

“Very early on before the summer, we reached out to all our partners and tried to understand what we can learn from them as businesses about how they’ve managed and handled the pandemic.

“We feel very fortunate our partners are genuine, and beyond that, the cricket and the numbers speak for themselves; the BBL has seen an overall 4% year-on-year growth in viewership, we’ve seen the test series up almost 10% compared to the last time India toured, we’ve seen over 530,000 people come to watch the BBL, and that could have been so much more if it weren’t for capacity restrictions to keep everyone socially distanced.

“What that reaffirms is that after what we’ve all experienced, and through lockdowns, sport and in our case Australia’s national summer sport, is a really important way to bring everyone together,” he said.

Reflecting on the financial concerns of Cricket Australia at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to staff cuts during the off-season and a review of the organisations finances, Hockley said the moves helped prepare for losses during the summer.

“At the time, the risk and the range of potential outcomes was so wide from some pretty drastic implications, for example if we weren’t able to host international tours and weren’t able to play the full BBL,” Hockley said.

“Because everyone has worked so hard and we’ve had such great support from all our partners, in terms of all the possible outcomes, we have pulled off the best result we could have.

“It’s cost us an incremental $30 million above the normal cost of delivering a season in biosecurity related costs to put on the season.

“We had very significant restrictions put on crowds, for the BBL to have 530,000 fans attend is about half of what we normally expect.

“COVID has come at a significant cost for cricket and the job ahead of us is to think about how we deliver massive upcoming summers, with women’s and men’s Ashes series on home soil this next season, then followed by more T20 World Cups.

“As with all sports and businesses, the challenge is how do we deliver in a COVID environment in a financially sustainable way,” he said.

Leaving a lasting thought for all sporting organisations currently delivering their competitions or planning their next competitions, Hockley said: “It has been a wild ride and we’ve had lots of different curveballs thrown at us and the approach we’ve taken is you always have to have your plan A, but if you have your plan B, C, and D and you’re prepared to move quickly and be very solution orientated, its amazing what you can achieve.”

“That’s the challenge for all sports now, ‘how sustainable is operating with that level of uncertainty and agility?’,” Hockley told Ministry of Sport.