A record Big Bash League crowd of 80,883 was on hand at the MCG to watch the Stars defeat the Renegades in the Melbourne Derby.
The attendance also sets a new record for any domestic cricket match in the world. The Indian Premier League, regarded as the world’s leading Twenty20 tournament, has a top attendance of around 67,000 – recorded at last year’s Final – a capacity crowd at Eden Gardens.
It smashes the previous record BBL crowd of 52,633 for last season’s semi-final between the Strikers and Sixers at the redeveloped Adelaide Oval. The attendance was 12,000 short of the official all-time record cricket attendance – also held by the MCG – when 93,013 attended the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup Final between Australia and New Zealand.
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The number far exceeded the recent Boxing Day Test where a lower than usual 53,388 strolled through the turnstiles for day one – due to weak opposition and wet conditions, while it also eclipsed the past 23 One Day Internationals (excluding the World Cup) and Twenty20 Internationals held at the ground.
Family-friendly ticket pricing has made the BBL the star attraction of Australia’s crowded summer sporting market. Tickets to Melbourne Stars & Renegades games start at just $20 for Adults, $5 for kids and $42.50 for families, while the most expensive ticket is $50. They are significantly cheaper than A-League and NBL prices – still, Melbourne City FC who are one of the lower-drawing clubs in the competition, attracted just over 10,000 fans next door to AAMI Park on the same night.
The record crowd wasn’t without its issues however, with huge delays getting into the ground caused by the new security fence and many food & beer outlets closed. Cricket Australia and the MCG had expected a crowd of around 50,000 to attend the fixture, however they drastically underestimated it, with a further 30,000 fans descending on Australia’s largest stadium, putting its facilities under stress.
An estimated 30,000 fans were still outside the stadium as the first ball was bowled and some did not get enter the venue until the half-way point. Inside the ground, food and beer queues were huge with not all available outlets open, while some ran out of supplies by the innings break.
A new 1.8m security fence around the MCG means all patrons need to be scanned prior to entering the stadium concourse. Huge queues stretched up to the back of Yarra Park, while many chose to jump the queue or even jump the security fence to get inside the ground. The temporary fence was erected following the Paris terror attacks and will remain at least for the remainder of the cricket season, with the possibility of staying put for the AFL season.
Fans resorted to social media to vent their frustrations, disappointed on missing the start of the game due to the increased security measures. It appeared some even missed the first ball despite arriving at the ground an hour prior to the scheduled start.
Cricket Australia apologised to fans who were left waiting outside the MCG after new security measures struggled to cope with the record crowd, defending the efforts of venue management.
“The Melbourne Cricket Ground has been highly proactive in their security measures for major cricket events this summer,” a spokesperson said.
“The match tonight experienced an unprecedented record crowd for domestic cricket. We thank fans for their patience and apologise for the delays experienced entering the ground tonight.
“The safety and security of our fans, players and officials is always our number one priority and rest assured we’ll continue to work with the MCG to ensure everyone has a fantastic experience at any cricket event this summer.”
The Melbourne Derby was part of a double-header with the women’s equivalent held prior to the main game. Some 12,901 fans were inside the ground at the end of the game – which is also a record attendance for women’s domestic cricket.
As the crowd swelled in perfect Melbourne weather conditions, officials removed a large Melbourne Stars banner covering one bay of seating in the Ponsford Stand to allow more fans to comfortably watch the match.
The record attendance has received a magnitude of mostly-positive media attention, and while officials were caught off-guard with the huge walk-up, overall it must be seen as a good thing – proving the Big Bash League is here to stay.