Crickonomics: What the Cricket World Cup Means for Australia

What an amazing time it is for Australian and Indian relations.

There are talks of a free trade agreement (on the coattails of agreements with Korea, Japan and China), while India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inspired ‘Modi Mania’ in Australia and around the world with his mandate to build a new India.

And then, perhaps most publicly, there’s the cricket world cup, which means the eyes of over a billion people on the Indian subcontinent are currently trained firmly on Australia.

Here’s an overview of the numbers behind the cricket world cup, what it means for our international relations and how it compares with other major sporting events around the world.


India’s first game of the World Cup, a historic match up against arch-rivals Pakistan, drew thousands of India’s cricket fans (known as ‘The Swami Army’) into the newly-renovated Adelaide Oval.

The match was beamed live around the world, and it’s estimated that it was most watched cricket match in the history of the game in terms of TV viewers.

Not only that, but Indian and Pakistan fans travelled to Adelaide not only from South Asia, but from Singapore too, and some even came from as far away Toronto to be there for the first ball bowled.

Over 80 per cent of match attendees hailed from outside South Australia, with large groups of Indian and Pakistani fans community making the journey across from Sydney and Melbourne.

Indian and Pakistan flags were seen flapping from cars at the border (that is the border of South Australia and Victoria not in the Punjab), and Indian commentators thought Adelaide Airport temporarily looked like any Indian airport in the middle of an Indian Premier League series.

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The Premier of South Australia Jay Weatherill hosted a major community function for Indian businesses on the Thursday before the game, and an historic India-Pakistan business function was held at game. The game itself (which Indian won comfortably) had everything except South Australian tourism minister catching a six which he has done before at Adelaide Oval (maybe next time Leon?).

The huge crowd at Adelaide oval is indicative of how effective the World Cup has been attracting cricket lovers from near and far and driving related business opportunities, particularly in tourism.

According to Cricket Australia’s Jonathan Rose “Around 825 000 tickets have been sold and we expect to hit 1 million by mid tournament.” Rose points out that even cricket newcomers like Afghanistan played to a sold out crown in Canberra against Bangladesh (thanks to many of the Bangladeshi community in Sydney and Melbourne who travelled to the game) and “that’s even before we count the Australia-England or South Africa-India blockbusters.”

As an economic money spinner the Cricket World Cup’s value is growing, partially because the cost of broadcast rights has doubled for the International Cricket Council (ICC) due to the popularity of the game in India, especially the short forms of the game.

It is estimated that 70 per cent of the world’s cricket revenue is generated from India, which is why having the Indian team based in Adelaide was important to South Australia and why India is so influential in the ICC.

How does cricket compare to other sporting events?

It is estimated that the Cricket World Cup generated around 50 per cent of the revenue of the FIFA World Cup, making association football (or soccer) truly the world game. But cricket makes around 10 times the revenue generated from rugby union’s premier international tournament, the Rugby World Cup, which is being staged in the UK later this year.

In fact, the cricket-soccer comparison is important in the Australian context as both are summer sports down under and don’t compete with Australia’s three leading winter football sporting codes in Aussie Rules Football, Rugby League and Rugby Union. Plus, Australia has just hosted a very successful Asian Cup in football that the host team the Socceroos won in a thrilling final against South Korea.

According to Alison Hill of the AFC Asian Cup Local Organising Committee, the Australian community really took to the tournament as a whole, even in games where the Socceroos weren’t playing. She estimates that, “there were 650,446 match attendees at an average of more than 20,326, with 380,000 attendees to matches that didn’t involve the Socceroos.”

The TV audience was again massive, with at least 315 million watching the tournament in China, Japan, South Korea Australia and ASEAN alone.

So with the Asian Cup a success and the Cricket World Cup attracting fans globally to Australia and New Zealand, it’s a big year in the economics of international sport. And the associated benefits in tourism and marketing, not to mention ‘sports diplomacy’ as exhibited by South Australia’s business hosting of the India-Pakistan match at Adelaide Oval, shows it’s all much more than just a game on the world stage.

Follow Tim Harcourt on Twitter and LinkedIn, and check out his website The Airport Economist

Thank you to Jonathan Rose of Cricket Australia and Alison Hill of the Local Organising Committee AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 for their generous assistance.

Image: CNN-IBN via Twitter