Cricket 2022: WBBL could return to bigger grounds

A return to Australia’s biggest cricket stadiums is on the cards next year as the WBBL looks to build on a successful season that was free of the bubbles, hubs and logistical nightmares that plagued world sport during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This season’s WBBL was played at smaller venues around the country, with more than 6000 fans heading to North Sydney Oval to see the Strikers beat the Sixers for their first title.

Blocks of games were played in certain cities to reduce travel, but that could change next season with plans to spread the action across markets more evenly to ensure fans don’t have to wait too long between matches.

The strong support in the stands and on TV has Big Bash Leagues general manager Alistair Dobson eyeing off plans to return to major grounds for the first time since the 2018-19 season when matches were played at the SCG, MCG, Marvel Stadium, the Gabba, WACA, Optus Stadium and Adelaide Oval.

Not all games would be played at the venues, but the plan would be to host blockbusters as stand-alone fixtures at grounds that are more comfortable for spectators and better for broadcasters.

“The schedule itself is something we’re looking ahead to, and we’ve been speaking to the players, coaches and clubs pretty regularly about that,” Dobson told the NCA NewsWire.

“Getting more games into each market is going to be important.

“We saw the interest in Melbourne and Sydney jumped up once we started playing games in those markets after spending the first part of the competition in other states.

“We’d love to be bold enough that big games can be played in bigger stadiums.

“Our fans are telling us that they want to come and watch, our players are telling us they want to play in bigger stadiums, so I’d love to think we can explore that next season.”

While the stadium plan is yet to be locked in, it looks like you can start planning when to watch WBBL|09, with Dobson keen to keep the competition in springtime once the AFL and NRL seasons have wrapped up.

“We think the WBBL has found the right home in the spring period,” he said.

“It’s a really busy time in Australian sport, and we saw this year that the WBBL was the most watched competition from a TV perspective at this time of year and the crowds are great.

“It’s still a heavyweight league and we saw on Saturday night that the fans want to come and watch. We like it at this time of year and we think it’s the place to stay.

“This season reminded us of all the best things about the WBBL. I think we played in 14 or 15 different venues, and it was amazing for people all over Australia to see such elite cricket.

“You could tell how much the players enjoyed themselves, and speaking to a heap of them, they loved the competition more than ever.

“I think it gives us such momentum and motivation to keep growing and pushing forward because we think there’s huge untapped upside in the WBBL and we’re already looking forward to it.”

This year’s competition brought in the power surge, while the WBBL also had DRS for the first time, although not every match had the review system.

That’s one area the game could look to change, while things like a draft and other innovations might be considered down the track.

Constantly building on the product is a reality of modern cricket with so many competitions around the world – including next year’s women’s IPL – fighting for international stars.

“We want to make sure that the best players in the world still want to come and play in the WBBL,” Dobson said, days after West Indian Deandra Dottin was named player of the final.

“It’s the strongest league – players tell us it’s the strongest league – but at the same time there’s a lot of cricket happening around the world that probably didn’t exist four or five years ago, so we’re going to need to stay ambitious and innovative in that respect.”

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