Healy warns against cuts to women's cricket
Australia star doesn't want domestic female cricketers to be victims of cost cutting as Cricket Australia considers the make-up of the 2020-21 schedule
14 May 2020, 01:48 PM AEST
Australia's star wicketkeeper-batter Alyssa Healy has urged Cricket Australia to maintain its strong investment in women's cricket domestically and not slash matches from the schedule as part of cost-cutting measures this summer.
The prospect of shorter domestic competitions for Australia's men's and women's players this season has been tabled as a possible way to lower costs, with CA working on a reduced budget as it looks to lessen the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has on the sport.
No decisions have been made yet about the structure of the domestic women's season for 2020-21, but Healy says cutting games from the Rebel Women's Big Bash League and Women's National Cricket League would compound the momentum already lost following the record-breaking T20 World Cup this year and also jeopardise Australia's preparations for the 50-over World Cup, which is scheduled to start in February.
Healy, a board director of the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA), conceded some "adjustments" will need to be made given the global uncertainty, but said a shorter season isn't the answer.
"(Playing less games) obviously doesn’t sit great," she told The Unplayable Podcast. "We don't want to lose any cricket ... it'd be a real shame.
"Especially the WBBL, it's such a great tournament for us and it's the bulk of the cricket we get to play. We don't get to play much 50-over cricket in our domestic competition and that's something that us as a playing group have been really pushing for in the last few years, that the WNCL competition is looked after.
"We don't want to lose any cricket. I don't feel our domestic players get to play enough as it is.
"We'll have to wait and see what sort of decisions are made. I know that it's not set in stone and there's some scheduling meetings coming up that the players are going to be involved in and will hopefully get to have their say on what the summer might look like.
"Knowing there's a 50-over World Cup on the horizon in February, we want to be playing as much cricket as we can to gain some momentum leading into that."
Competitions like the Marsh Sheffield Shield, the men's and women's domestic one-day tournaments and the WBBL don't drive as much direct revenue as international matches and the men's Big Bash, but they still require significant funding in order to be played.
There is no first-class women's competition in Australia, meaning female players already play much less each season than their male counterparts.
The WBBL enjoyed more growth last summer, the first time the tournament had been held as a standalone event, with increased broadcast ratings for the regular season that built to a crescendo in the finals, which was the highest-rated sporting event on television that weekend in early December.
While the women's competition is not yet a key driver of the lucrative broadcast dollars that underpin much of Cricket Australia's balance sheet, it looks set to play a bigger role in future rights negotiations with WBBL matches consistently drawing more TV viewers than other summer sporting competitions such as the A-League and the NBL (albeit with streaming figures through platforms like Kayo not released publicly).
The WBBL also plays a major role in lifting participation for women and girls, which not only leads to direct revenue through registration fees, but also leads to more people with a longer affiliation with the sport through playing, coaching, or even as a fan.
Healy's national teammate Ellyse Perry said last month the uncertainty surrounding international travel this year could make the WBBL a more important tournament than it's ever been, especially if it's some of the first cricket played this season.
Healy acknowledges that cricket has been relatively untouched by the health pandemic so far, but said maintaining the investment in the women's game would be needed to help it recover some of the momentum lost by the cricketing shutdown that immediately followed the highly successful World Cup.
"It's such a shame that this has happened and we've potentially lost a bit of momentum, but I think we can pick that up pretty quickly once we get back rolling and (by) making sure we invest properly in the women's game and make sure it thrives in the future," she said.
"I think there's a potential for the WBBL to be the first cricket that we see ... so we want to make sure there's a proper investment in the women's game at a domestic level to make sure that it's a really great product for people to watch.
"With talk that the international players may not be out there for it (due to travel restrictions), we want to make sure that the players around our state cricket are really well looked after and given the most opportunities to go out there and be full-time cricketers. And come WBBL time, put on the best show for everyone out there.
"People love watching the WBBL and we want to make sure that product keeps going from strength to strength."
ACA CEO Alistair Nicholson said today discussions with Cricket Australia about the make-up of the summer schedule are ongoing.
"Reducing WBBL games has ... been strongly represented to us recently; that's not something (the players) want to do," he said.
"Domestic cricket is the strength of the game."