Slim crowds, critics raise chairman’s ire

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Tasmanian cricket’s chairman Tony Harrison has scoffed at the suggestion that Hobart might be in any danger of losing its share of Australia’s home Test matches. He also proffered a slogan in response to media criticism that seems likely to end up on a bumper sticker: “If you don’t like Tasmania, don’t come here.”
Granted the opening match of the series in the school holiday period in mid-December before the Boxing Day and New Year’s Tests in Melbourne and Sydney, Bellerive Oval has been host to attendances of just 6221 on day one, 3810 on day two and 4388 on day three. This is against Cricket Tasmania’s budget estimates of around 9000 on the first day and about 7000 on each of Saturday and Sunday.
Harrison admitted that 23 years after hosting its first Test, also against Sri Lanka in 1989, Tasmania was still to develop a strong “Test match culture”, something not helped by the five-day game only making periodic visits to the island state’s capital.
Among various mitigating circumstances for the slim turnouts, Harrison cited the fixture’s close proximity to Christmas, ticket prices that outstripped those on offer for popular Twenty20 BBL matches at the ground, and Hobart’s changeable weather, which was overcast on day one and caused rain breaks on each of days two and three. By way of a concession, Harrison said general admission tickets for Monday’s fourth day would allow the bearer to sit in the southern stand, rather than simply to stand on the hill.
However he flatly rejected any potential for the state losing its share of Australia’s home Test matches, typically receiving the sixth match of the summer when two touring teams make the journey down under.
“I think that’s a ridiculous suggestion quite frankly,” Harrison said. “I’ve heard that said, and that is nonsense. We are one of the owners of Cricket Australia and CA has a philosophy in its programming to spread the game around the country, and Test matches [in Hobart] are not in question, not in doubt.
“There are no guarantees, we don’t know what the programme will look like in three, four, five years’ time. But at the moment our philosophy is to share the game around the country, to give people around the country the opportunity to see Test cricket.