Whether or not you are the biggest fan of football, it’s hard to argue with its commercial success; and an important facet of this is the loyalty of fans to “their” team – a bond which quite literally spans generations: my son supports Arsenal because I do… and I do because my father does… and he does because his father did – the very idea of supporting anyone else is anathema!
This partly explains the massive (by domestic women’s cricket standards) crowds at the WBBL – several games have recorded over 1,000 spectators, which is probably more than the entire 2015 Women’s County Championship combined! Great marketing has helped, but the biggest factor is almost certainly people going to watch a team to which they already have loyalties via the (M)BBL.
(Anecdotally I’m told a similar thing happens in women’s football in this country – a large proportion of those who watch Arsenal Ladies are also season-ticket holders at Highbury Ashburton Grove The Emirates.)
So the answer to further growing women’s cricket in Australia – especially the 50 Over game – seems clear: get the same teams playing in the WNCL – giving the fans set of teams to follow and the media one set of teams to cover, with allegiances already embedded in the public consciousness via The Other Game.
Interestingly, official “Aussie Legend” Lisa Sthalekar notes that the players might also perform better playing and training with the same team-mates over a longer-term period than just the brief WBBL season:
“What I have noticed so far is teams predominately made up from their WNCL state squad with the addition of internationals seem to be fairing better than the Melbourne and Sydney teams [which aren’t].”
Could a “merger” happen, allowing the WBBL teams to compete for the WNCL? Legally, the answer is almost-certainly yes – Cricket Australia has been pretty canny in making sure that it “owns” the whole caboodle; so there wouldn’t appear to be any major obstacles, apart from perhaps the argument that 8 teams is one team too many, especially once (if?) you take the international stars out of WNCL.
(Whilst in England you would doubtless hear the argument that this was a “slippery slope” towards the “franchisation” of the entire men’s game; the Australians don’t seem to worry quite so much about that sort of thing?)
So it’s good for the fans… it’s good for the players… and it helps the media to build “the story”. It’s The Future™… and as we’ve seen with WBBL, Cricket Australia do The Future™ rather well – so bring it on!