Australian cricket has enjoyed its third consecutive strong year on a wide range of measures.
Cricket Australia, the States and Territories are collectively focused as one team on maintaining the trajectory we have created since national governance changes that started in 2011.
We want to consolidate cricket as Australia’s favourite game and as a sport for all Australians and have started work to develop a new, formal strategic plan for launch in mid-2017.
On-field performance is the only measure of success that interests most fans.
The men and women representing Australia are dedicated, high-performing cricketers who are strongly supported off the field.
We approach the start of another summer with our women ranked number one in the world. Our men, having recently lost the number one Test ranking, are ranked three, one and five respectively across Test, One-day International and T20 cricket.
Developing more sustainable high-performance is a major focus.
To that end, Australian cricket is starting to reap the benefits of a better co-ordinated and more sharply focused high-performance approach across all Australian cricket.
We know we have to find a way to win regularly when overseas. We have performed better than others when away from home over the last three to four years. But we have also lost nine Tests in a row in Asia, have not won an Ashes series in England since 2001 and have a demanding Test tour to India early next year.
Our Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with cricketers has a role in supporting the development of our up and coming players and complements our aspirations to be number one internationally.
That will be important to us as we work with our cricketers (men and women) and their representatives over the next year to develop the next MOU.
Our immediate priority in Test cricket is the imminent home contests against South Africa and then the world number two Test side, Pakistan. The third and fourth Test matches of the summer will be day-night matches in Adelaide and Brisbane.
We are also working on a plan to regain the Ashes in 2017-18.
We are also starting to turn our focus to the enormous opportunity of both staging and contesting the ICC World Twenty20 Championship here in Australia in 2020.
Off-field performance doesn’t necessarily guarantee on-field success.
But on-field success is not possible without off-field success.
Australian cricket’s health is stronger than ever on a number of fronts.
Participation, up 8.5% on 2014/15 to 1.311 million, and match attendance, up to 1.727 million, are at record levels.
The KFC Big Bash League, created with the single-minded purpose of attracting families, kids and females to cricket, averaged 1.1 million viewers and more than 29,000 attendees per game, and the new Women’s BBL provided a fabulous platform for our female cricketers to excite the public with their skills, and to inspire girls to play cricket.
The day-night Test played at Adelaide last summer was also a fan-focussed initiative trialled as a way of making our premium format, Test cricket, more accessible to followers. CA is grateful to our players, to New Zealand cricket, to South Australian cricket, to Channel 9 and, above all, to the public for their support for that inaugural day-night match. Nearly 124,000 people attended the Adelaide Oval over three days.
More people are interested in cricket than any other sport for the first time in recent memory, and research measuring Australian’s passion for sport shows that cricket inspires more passion than any other sport.
As is well documented, we manage our finances over a four-year cycle to smooth out the annual fluctuations in broadcast revenue based on whichever team is visiting Australia in any particular summer.
CA’s result for the year ending 30 June 2016 was an operating surplus of $9.7 million with net assets growing to $150 million.
This continues to allow us to invest in initiatives to grow cricket and, consistent with the reserve strategy, manage fluctuating revenue streams and business risk.
Australian cricket recently staged its second Australian Cricket Conference.
The first-ever ACC, in 2010, was about getting our house in order.
The recent ACC was about accelerating our progress. Attracting and supporting females as community-level and elite-level players, and as fans to help ensure cricket is a sport for all Australians, was an important message.
It will be a long while before elite women’s cricket is commercially sustainable in its own right but attracting more females as players and as fans is strategically critical. At the same time we are optimistic that the tide has turned and the increasing fan interest in the women’s game is being complemented by significant corporate sponsorship.
We are proud that cricket has led the way on female athlete payments, and we are also investing heavily in female engagement through a Growing Cricket for Girls Fund.
At a cricket club level, the mindset about females playing the game has changed. Similarly, our participant base continues to better reflect the diverse nature of Australia’s population.
On that point, the coming Boxing Day Test will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Aboriginal Xl that played the Marylebone Cricket Club at one of Melbourne’s first Boxing Day matches. Players from that Xl formed the core of the 1868 Aboriginal team which toured England, the first-ever Australian sporting team of any kind to do so.
Before concluding, I note that Australia is an active supporter of global cricket, taking a fan-based approach in its current review of bilateral cricket. We continue to hold to our long-term position that fans want context and relevance from the games they watch.
It is trite to say that cricket is a team game. But I am keen to place on record my thanks to approximately 50,000 volunteers who keep our game alive at the community level, the 1.311 million cricketers who play at that level, the dedicated cricket administration professionals who do such sterling work across the State and Territory Cricket Associations and at Cricket Australia, the elite players who are such fine ambassadors for the game, and to our broadcast and commercial partners, who help fund Australian cricket.
I also pay tribute to 2015 outgoing CA Chairman Wally Edwards and to new Chairman David Peever and his Board for their support and guidance, and for the seamless transition that has accompanied the change in Board leadership.
All of us are conscious that we are custodians of a game that the public owns and we thank Australian cricket fans for their support.
Cricket Australia CEO