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Big Bash may head to regional areas

03 January 2016

Geelong hosted a pre-season game this summer // Getty Images

Cities like Geelong, Canberra and Gold Coast could be on the agenda in the future

Cricket Australia (CA) is considering taking Big Bash League (BBL) games to regional centres as soon as next summer, in a bid to begin expansion of the competition.

Additional rounds would also be added to the tournament to accommodate the moved matches, as CA looks to build on the overwhelming success of this summer's competition, which is already attracting higher attendances than Test matches by almost 9,000 fans per day.

However, they are concerned about over saturating the market, and will therefore experiment by taking games to regional hubs in coming years, before adding new teams.

"It's the evolution of the Big Bash, we're five years in now and we've achieved some great results in that period," Anthony Everard, the head of the BBL, said.

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"We are inclined to have a soft launch in some respects. We may take existing BBL games and play those in regional centres.

"If we were to do that though, it wouldn't come at a cost of the major metro markets, so that would have to be new incremental content. That is something that we are looking at for the short to medium term."

Crowds of almost 28,000 per match have well exceeded the organisers' predictions for this summer, while average attendances in Brisbane, Perth, Hobart and Melbourne are higher than any single-day Test crowd at the same venues this summer.

Hobart even drew more fans to their match against the Sydney Thunder than they did in the entire three days of their Test between Australia and the West Indies in December.

However, while Everard says they will not act on impulse in adding new teams rashly, it is believed the most likely option would be to add them after the 2017/18 season when the current broadcast deal ends.

Given one of the fundamental aims of the BBL is to expose new fans to the game, Everard says the most likely option would be to take matches to Canberra, Geelong and the Gold Coast before considering their addition to the competition.

"Historically we've done a great job servicing our major metro centres with Test matches and ODIs, but there are a lot of parts of Australia that haven't had exposure to elite cricket.

"I think BBL by its very nature provides a great opportunity to be more flexible in our scheduling to try and accommodate that."

Expansion of the competition through the means of additional matches and teams could prove problematic to keep it within its current school holiday window, but Everard believes it is still possible.

"Before Christmas we had a double-header on the east coast which actually worked really well," he said.

"On Saturday night we had the double header using the Perth timeslot to our advantage. With over 100,000 people attending games, TV ratings were still strong with over a million people still watching both games. That was a really big tick."

The original franchise-based BBL launched in 2011/12 with 28 regular season matches, before expanding to 32 in the following season.

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