Melbourne, Jan 11 (IANS) Australia’s national Twenty20 cricket competition has rocketed into the top-10 most watched sporting leagues for 2015-16, with an average of 28,279 fans attending the matches this season. The Big Bash League (BBL), which is in its fifth year, has drawn record crowds around the country, with more than 80,000 spectators attending a Melbourne derby last week, reports Xinhua. BBL now sits ninth on the list of highest attended sports, edging out Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball which averages 28,279 attendees, and the ranking is just below Spain’s football league La Liga, which draws an average attendance of 28,498.
Australian rules football also appears in the top 10, with the Australian Football League drawing an average crowd of 33,428 per game. The average Big Bash attendance is expected to keep rising, with tournament organisers expecting a crowd of more than 40,000 people to watch a Sydney derby which takes place at the Sydney Cricket Ground this week. The news comes on the back of a recent announcement by Cricket Australia, which detailed a jump in prize money for this year’s tournament, a clear sign BBL is proving popular with the punters.
BBL manager Anthony Everard said on Monday that the figure was “flattering” but it was positive to see Australians embracing the start-up league. “That’s flattering, given that the competition is only five years’ old, to be in the company of some of those really established sports leagues,” Everard told Fairfax Media.
“Our focus is on our own backyard and making sure we continue to appeal to kids and families. That is as satisfying to us as perhaps some of those big numbers on a global scale.” The league was still in awe of the 80,000-strong crowd that poured through the Melbourne Cricket Ground’s gates last week, he said. The popularity of the league could mean a longer season or expansion to other cities as currently, and the Big Bash has just eight teams competing.
“We’ve stated that at the end of the season we’re going to consider our options. I guess we sort of think of it as growth rather than expansion and it can take many different forms,” Everard said.