Thursday, March 5, 2009

Evan WeinerBusiness of Sports Examiner

Cricket gets unwanted attention

March 5, 4:47 PM · Add a Comment
About two and a half years ago, I was a guest on a British Broadcasting Corporation World Service programme on the business of sports. The show covered a broad spectrum of world sports including cricket. I knew nothing about cricket and wasn’t called upon to discuss the business aspects of the sport but after listening to the shows that aired on October 18, 2006 and October 25, 2006, I quickly became aware of just how big cricket really is on a global basis.

Cricket’s world championship game gets more TV viewers globally than the Super Bowl. A Pakistan-India contest might draw 400 million viewers and the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup in South Africa had an estimated 1.2 billion eyeballs glued to a TV set. There are 10 cricket “Test Match” playing countries. Australia, England, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand, Indian, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. The ambushing of the Sri Lanka team by terrorists in Lahore, Pakistan on Tuesday is not only a huge international incident in the world of cricket but also in the diplomatic world.

Cricket players are nothing more than entertainers but to Pakistan militants, the Sri Lanka team was a high level target. Eight people were killed, six of them policemen. Six Sri Lanka players, a coach and an umpire were injured in the biggest sports terrorist incident since the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, Germany when Palestinian militants killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches in the Olympic Village.

Cricket players in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the other countries are on the same level in their countries as baseball, basketball or football players are in the United States. They don’t make the money as their athletic counterparts in North American and in 2006, cricket promoters were investigating ways of expanding marketing opportunities with China as the major prize and the cricket community would like to get into Africa.

Cricket officials want the sport to grow beyond the 10 “Test Match” clubs and on that BBC show, they laid out they plans to get the sport more ingrained on a worldwide basis, because that is where the money opportunities exist.

Cricket officials are hoping to attract sponsorships and having those sponsors exposed to the billions of people in traditional non-cricket areas. Cricket got massive exposure earlier this week but for the wrong reason. Cricket has become the first sport to get caught in the “real” world of terrorism for the first time in 36 ½ years.

China remains the prize but that is in the future. Also in the future is the 2011 World Cup, which will be held on the Indian subcontinent. India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will host matches, but Pakistan is more than likely out after being told that they were going to get a match. Pakistan will not only lose the 2011 World Cup but also other international cricket matches. Sri Lanka was warned that Pakistan is a dangerous country but the Sri Lanka’s cricket board decided to go ahead with the match anyway.

Unlike the 1972 Munich Olympics when International Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage decided, “the Games must go on,” the Sri Lanka team was getting out of Lahore.

In April, the International Cricket Council will meet to talk about the 2011 World Cup venues but it is unlikely that Pakistan will see an international competition played on its soil anytime soon. There may be a review of the security on the Indian sub-continent as well.

The attack on the Sri Lanka team will cause not only the International Cricket Council but also other sports organizations to review security arrangements. The next big international sporting event is the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver followed by the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Vancouver is busting its budget to provide security for the Olympians and there will be massive security for the FIFA event. The 2011 cricket event will be held in a dangerous part of the world. The games will go on but will United States security be part of the cricket event? That is a question that hasn’t been brought up yet, but Pakistan is a central part of the War on terror as the cricket community found out this week.

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