Sarah Styles, Head of Female Engagement, and Kim McConnie, who oversees the men’s and women’s Big Bash League, are two of the women changing the game at Cricket Australia.
It was recently announced that, in 2019, the Women’s Big Bash League will operate as a standalone competition from the men’s series.
“We’ve had pretty much universal support for it because one of the challenges we have at the moment is that it just gets lost in the clutter,” McConnie says, her eyes lighting up.
“Women’s elite cricket has earned its right, so why wouldn’t you have it standalone? That’s what we’re working through at the moment and how we can bring that to life.”
Women’s cricket, like most women’s sport, has relied upon doubleheaders for a long time, often to access television broadcasts.
“By the men and women playing on the same ground it was much easier to be able to get support from broadcast partners,” Styles explains.
“The challenge is what does that structure look like with cricket? If you have two 3 hour games and there’s a two hour gap in the middle, unfortunately, it’s not really optimised for people who are there in person.
“Because there’s not many people there, somebody watches on the television and they don’t actually judge the product. They don’t judge what they’re seeing on the field. Without realising it, they judge the whole thing as ‘there’s no one there so it mustn’t be any good, therefore I think it’s no good’. It fed into this misconception of the quality of the sport and that was a challenge.”
The Women in Sport Summit will take place at the MCG in Melbourne between August 21 and 23. The summit highlights the key areas where female audiences, athletes, and executives are growing and changing the business of sport.
Styles and McConnie will be just two of the names from Cricket Australia presenting. On the first day, Styles will be talking about accountability using the example of Cricket Australia’s annual Press for Progress report. The document was released for the first time in March.
“This is an annual monitor that we’ll release publicly to show how we’re performing against our strategy,” she explains. “Everybody at Cricket Australia knows that. If we’ve got a positive story to tell, we’ll release it. If we’ve got a neutral or negative story to tell, we’ll still be telling it.
“We’re doing that in order to be more transparent around what’s happening and what we’re trying to achieve, and to drive that public accountability.
“If we miss something or don’t deliver, we want people to be annoyed. I think what sports don’t want is apathy. That’s probably a whole separate conversation but we want people to be challenging cricket on it - like ‘hang on you said you were going to do this, why aren’t you doing this?’”