Australia mulling plan to bring cricket’s smash hit Big Bash League to Hong Kong
Cricket NSW has made proposal to expand the tournament to Asia, with local chiefs hoping it boosts their bid for a top-class ground
Hong Kong could host a round of Australian cricket’s smash-hit Big Bash League – and local chief Tim Cutler is hoping it will increase pressure on authorities to help Hong Kong cricket find a permanent home.
The five-year-old Twenty20 competition has become a huge success in Australia, with crowds averaging over 30,000 and a bidding war looming to win the TV rights.
Organisers are now looking to expand the brand and have Hong Kong in their sights, along with Singapore and possibly China.
“I think [the proposal] has got legs, having the first round played across Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Singapore, would be a great chance to grow the game here,” said Cutler on RTHK.
“We can look at what international games could be played around it too, with Hong Kong having T20 international status.
“But we’re not getting ahead of ourselves, these things take time and of course we still need a ground to hold it.”
Proposals were put to Cricket Australia three months ago, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, with the governing body set to examine them more closely after the conclusion of this year’s competition this Saturday.
“There’s a question mark about whether the Australian market could accommodate [an expansion] straight away if it’s in a similar time-frame to what it is now,” Cricket NSW chief Andrew Jones told the SMH.
“We thought with that, to help the market absorb the content, we could take either the first or the first two rounds overseas in early December.
“The obvious locations would be Hong Kong, Singapore, possibly China – there’s a cricket ground in Guangzhou,” Jones added.
“It’s a bit like starting the Tour De France in England or Ireland or Germany or Denmark as a way of globalising the brand. It starts to look and feel a lot like a Hong Kong Sevens type weekend targeted at a mix of expats and locals. It’s a good time zone for Australia and it’s an emerging market for cricket.”
Hong Kong’s cricket team has been hugely successful in recent years but has long been hampered by the lack of an international-class ground.
Their Mission Road facility in Mong Kok will be able to host 1,500 for the upcoming T20 Blitz tournament in March, and Cutler says it could take three to four thousand maximum with a bigger budget.
If Cricket Australia goes ahead with the expansion plan, it remains to be seen if the small number of spectators possible in Hong Kong would be a turn-off.
The sport pleaded with planners of the Kai Tak Sports Park to include cricket in their design but it cannot be accommodated in the main stadium under the current public plans.
Singapore’s National Stadium, unlike Kai Tak, is already built and can host 52,000 for cricket, while Guangzhou has a 12,000-seat cricket stadium built for the 2010 Asian Games.
“There’s been lot of talk in policy addresses about investment in facilities,” added Cutler, referring to CY Leung’s final policy address last week when he announced HK$20 billion for sport.
“We know what’s happening in Kai Tak, hopefully this is the kind of news that can show there is a demand for cricket and oval-field sports that would make any round stadium a commercial success.
“Hong Kong is the highest-ranked ODI team outside the main table at the moment after beating Scotland and we have great relationships with Cricket Australia ... and it is heartening to see that Cricket Australia is considering long-term options here.
“There are so many sports crying out for facilities, look what the Sevens could do with a bigger stadium and the popularity of soccer, but cricket is up there too and we should be proud of the way our team is going – and for us to be able to host the games our team has qualified for we need the facility.”