The first phase of this year’s BPL - rebranded as the Bangabandhu BPL - drew to a close in much the same way that it started its stay in the capital: in front of gaping swathes of empty seats in the stands of the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium.
On December 17 it started an eight-day phase in Port CIty Chattogram. But the most prestigious, and most commercially successful domestic sporting event of Bangladesh is consistently failing to draw the kind of crowds people, including the organisers BCB, have come to expect from the previous 6 seasons. The vacant galleries are a sure sign that the devoted fans, who give time and money to go watch games, are not into it.
Right from the event-opener on December 11, there were only a few thousand spectators at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium. The scenario remained mostly unchanged during the entire phase in Dhaka. Only on the first Friday of this BPL, there were a notable number of spectators at Sher-e-Bangla.
On the last day again, the numbers dropped significantly, which was enough to raise many eyebrows among BCB high officials.
“We expected more numbers of spectators in BPL. But the interest of the fans is very low. We are surprised about it,” a BCB official told UNB on condition of anonymity. He also touched on the decision to make it a one-off event that came out of the franchise-based format it had been for the first 6 seasons, and which almost all T20 leagues around the world are based on.
The only exception being the Big Bash in Australia, where it is backed by the financial muscle and professionalism of Cricket Australia. Other than that, the franchise mode drawing on the American business model for domestics sporting competitions is regarded as essential to the entire package.
“When it was the franchise-based event in the last season, the team owners tried to create a fanbase. But this time around, BCB is more focused on running the teams only. At the same time, when it was a franchise-based event, local spectators were more eager to support their own teams. We don’t see this sentiment this time,” he added.
It was expected that the BPL will draw more attention in Chattogram than it got in Dhaka. But the idea has proved to be wrong again as most of the galleries lay empty, right from the first day it moved to the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. Only on the Friday, yesterday, did it attract a sizeable crowd.
“I was in the stadium on the opening day concert. But I never thought to go there again because the facilities for the spectators are very poor,” Morshed Mishu, a cricket fan of Mirpur in Dhaka told UNB.