T20 Blast Attendance – A Boring Maths Post

In the lead up to today’s finals, the ECB released information about attendance in this year’s competition; A total of approximately 800,000, including the sold out Edgbaston crowd. This was compared to 2019’s figures of 920,000, or a decline of roughly 15 percent. I had two questions upon hearing this news: ‘Weren’t there a massive number of abandoned matches in 2019?’ and ‘How much will that cost the counties?’

To answer the first question: Yes, there were. 24 matches were abandoned due to rain in 2019, as opposed to 7 in 2018 and 6 in 2022. In spite of this, 2019 was (and obviously remains) the season in which the most tickets were sold in the T20 Blast. Which led me to think about how it would be possible to account for this factor and correctly gauge how much attendances had really fallen.

As far as I can work out using ground capacities from Wikipedia, there were a maximum of 1.37 million seats available in the 2019 Blast (having subtracted the 24 washouts), and 1.55 million seats in 2022 (without 6 washouts). This allows us to compare the two seasons’ attendances as the percentage of available capacity: 67.2 percent in 2019, and 51.5 percent in 2022. This would mean that the reduction in ticket sales for the 18 counties isn’t really 15 percent, as has been reported, but 23.3 percent from 2019 to this season.

To put it another way: If the counties had sold the same proportion of seats in 2022 as they did in 2019, the total attendance for the competition would have been 1,040,000 instead of 800,000.

Which brings us to my second question, regarding how much this will have cost the counties. The Cricketer magazine published this useful list of county ticket prices, from which you can estimate how much more money each team would have made if they had sold 23.3 percent more tickets. The answer for all 18 counties combined is just over £5,000,000.

Of course, this simplistic conjecture likely fails to grasp the full scale of losses that the clubs are enduring. It does not account for the lost food, drink and merchandise sales from the grounds, for example. What is clear is that it is the clubs which have the largest grounds who suffer the most damage financially in this situation. Worcestershire CCC stand to lose roughly £100,000 this season (23.3 percent of 5,500 capacity * 6 home matches * £20 ticket price), whilst Surrey CCC’s losses might be over a million pounds (23.3 percent of 27,500 capacity * 7 home matches * £28 ticket price). Worcestershire CCC might feel like they are getting a good deal from the £1,300,000 ECB payment in return for supporting The Hundred. Surrey CCC, and the other hosts in The Hundred, might feel otherwise.

It’s hard to tell whether this season’s figures will have worried those in charge of the county clubs. Their chairs recently voted to support a new TV deal with Sky Sports on broadly the same terms as the current contract, including the continuation of The Hundred. This ties county cricket into a similar schedule for the next six seasons, but also presumably guarantees that each team will receive their extra £1,300,000 ‘dividend’ from the ECB. It remains to be seen if this will be a wise choice.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave them below.

10 thoughts on “T20 Blast Attendance – A Boring Maths Post

  1. Marek Jul 16, 2022 / 11:07 pm

    I know the figures are quite different depending on which Wikipedia page you look at, but I suspect that your estimation of the total number of seats is somewhat pessimistic–I make it between 10 and 20% higher.

    But that’s by the by. What always strikes me when people talk about Blast attendance is how poor it is. We keep being told that this is THE most popular form of domestic cricket, what attracts the hordes of modern people who will keep cricket relevant and popular, and that the Blast is generally very successful in terms of spectator attendance. And at the absolute best it fills two thirds of the available seats, and sometimes half or less.

    It’s true that that is infinitely more popular than the Championship, where attendances are dire–but that is not a sign of a successful, popular sport to my mind. And, unless there are some absolutely tiny crowds for the Blast at places like Worcester and Chelmsford (which I doubt), then it suggests that the big grounds (ie the type which are filled when an event is really popular) are regularly struggling to sell more than about 30% of their seats. That’s an attendance crisis–especially when you see the salaries being paid to the best-paid county cricketers.

    And it’s why county cricket is so totally dependent on TV money, and therefore on the ECB. That should be much more alarming to county chairs than it appears to be, even if they approve of the ECB: it’s the very definition of putting all their eggs in one basket.

    And, on the point of whether their trust in the ECB is right, even the all-singing all-dancing Hundred–even more meant to appeal to the type of ultra-modern counterpoints to boring old farts like me–only seems to have “issued” tickets for around 66% of its available seats, even though every match was a double-header…while of course the word “issued” rather than sold is a gigantic red flag in terms of its actual popularity.

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    • Simon Newsham Jul 18, 2022 / 12:21 am

      The schedules of my team Hampshire meant I couldn’t take my child. It always clashed with a late finish on a school night. Therefore I attended none of the Blast games what I watched on live stream was brilliant. But I couldn’t attend.

      The 100 will ge better attended because of cheap and free tickets and all the fixtures are in the school holidays.

      The Royal London 50 over competition will he a second xi tournament once again. All the top players in the 100.

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      • Mark Jul 18, 2022 / 8:12 am

        So much fuss was made about England winning the 50 over World Cup, and now the Royal London has, as you say been reduced to a second eleven competition because of the 100. And so many of the 100 tickets are cheap or free.

        Counties should seriously consider offering cheap or free seats for the Royal London, and hope to get some money back on the catering and other concessions. If they don’t, I can’t see the attendances being very good.

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      • Marek Jul 18, 2022 / 11:40 am

        Are you sure about that Simon? Hampshire’s website shows three of their home games at 7 pm on a Friday, two at weekends and two midweek.

        I’m not trying to say that the schedules are always easy for people to attend every game–but this is not about the Hundred: the attendances weren’t incredibly high even before 2020.

        As a comparison, I’ve just googled the average attendance for Lincoln City FC last season (chosen at random as a not-especially-good club in the third tier of professional football). They will also have had a fair few midweek games–and their average attendance was around as good as the Blast (cricket’s most popular domestic competition) has EVER got.

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  2. Paul G Jul 17, 2022 / 5:05 pm

    Looks like the counties are keen to know why attendances are down. I received an email from Surrey late this week, asking me to complete a survey as to why I had purchased Blast tickets in previous seasons but not this season.

    In Surrey’s case, I think at least one Oval Blast fixture was affected by the train strikes.

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    • dannycricket Jul 17, 2022 / 6:06 pm

      Didn’t Surrey only sell out 2 out of 7 home Blast matches, when they normally fill every seat? There weren’t that many rail strikes…

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      • Topshelf Jul 18, 2022 / 3:38 pm

        I got offered free tickets to 3 of Surrey’s home games this season. For one of the games 2 organisations offered so I could have had 8 free tix.

        I ended up going to none of them, for various reasons, but one surprising reason being the lack of enthusiasm from my kids.

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        • dannycricket Jul 18, 2022 / 4:38 pm

          The next question would be: Are they enthusiastic about The Hundred? The same players but with more hype, brighter colours, more fireworks, live music (of a sort), a DJ, collectible game cards and matches on FTA TV.

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        • Marek Jul 18, 2022 / 9:05 pm

          …and the question after that would be: if they are, does that mean they’re enthusiastic about cricket or enthusiastic about bright colours, live music, collectible game cards and fireworks–none of which require a cricket match to exist?

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Mark Jul 17, 2022 / 5:40 pm

    Perhaps the reason is some of these “missing” fans now go to the 100? People only have a certain amount of disposable income. And for the last two years they have been subjected to public relations advertising that would have them believe the 100 is the greatest form of cricket ever.

    They are bound to give it a try. I may be wrong. I keep reading articles that claim there is a completely different audience for the 100. I’m sure that is partly true, but there must be some cross over traffic as well. It’s one of the reasons I dislike the 100 because it has up ended the season and now maybe is hurting the Blast.

    By all accounts they got a great finals day yesterday going down to the last ball. Drama and controversy. I do wonder how many people were watching on Sky in this weather?

    On another note I see England have once again failed to bat out their allotted overs. Will their bowlers get them out of it again? Doesn’t look like it after a few early Indian wickets,

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