Australia vs India: Virus-spooked Test cricket hopes for business boost despite Qld cases – The Australian Financial Review
“It won’t really matter if there’s a big … or small crowd,” he said.
Cricket Australia could not provide final sales figures for corporate hospitality, where spots at boxes sell for up to $700 a day, including beer and special guest appearances. Still, it argued the take-up from existing clients for corporate hospitality had been “excellent”.
Doubts had surrounded whether the event would even occur, with complaints emerging from the Indian side about Queensland’s quarantine restrictions.
A plague wildcard was then thrown last week after a Brisbane hotel cleaner tested positive for the more contagious UK mutation of the virus. Brisbane was locked down for three days and some other states prohibited people from returning from a perceived hot zone.
“There’s been many twists and turns … through the whole summer season,” Queensland Cricket chief executive Terry Svenson said.
WWE has promoted on Twitter its stadiums filled with virtual crowds. Australian cricket fans have been lucky to get the real thing this summer, albeit at a reduced capacity.
Authorities this week decided to progress with the Gabba Test, but they cut capacity in half and installed tougher one person per four square metre rules for indoor facilities. It meant tickets were reissued.
Yet positive factors to patronage that Mr Svenson cited included the Gabba hosting a Test in school holidays compared to a typical November match, and India being a drawcard team. He predicted that the majority of corporate suites would be full and said general tickets for the first two days were almost sold out.
Pandemic scuttles traditions
Paul Lewis, chief executive of Australia’s largest customer-owned lender CUA, will also attend the first day. CUA sponsors the Brisbane Heat cricket team and receives general admission tickets that they give to guests, including customers.
“We haven’t noticed people turning those down,” Mr Lewis said. He backed the match going ahead “as long as people are complying [with] mask use and hygiene”.
Business partners and couple Cathie Reid and Stuart Giles, Rich Listers who made fortunes from the healthcare sector and are now backing projects including an amateur cricket league, are going on day one with a Queensland Cricket function.
Even at 50 per cent [capacity], it’s a fantastic outcome
— Stuart Giles, Arc31 founder
For almost 15 years they typically booked a box – Mr Giles often uses it to catch up with friends from when he captained Victoria’s under-19 schoolboy side.
But COVID-19 lockdowns upended the tradition. “Obviously that’s not viable,” Ms Reid said.
Mr Giles said crowds were an “important part of … the atmosphere”.
“Even at 50 per cent, it’s a fantastic outcome,” he said.
While not criticising any area’s approach to lockdowns, Mr Giles said making consistent arrangements throughout Australia would improve the situation for people to plan.
Denis Wagner, chairman of construction materials business Wagners, is going on Saturday as a corporate box guest, and said it was good to have the match progressing after a disruptive 2020 and wished for a more normal 2021. “Hopefully we can get back to doing things like going to the cricket,” he said.
One person whose plans to attend the Test were scuttled is Victorian-based Rob Goudswaard, former CUA chief executive and a cricket tragic who even played the “Desert Ashes” when posted as a banker in the Middle East.
His concern was about returning home – Victoria requires people travelling from the red zone areas, including Brisbane, to have a workers permit, exemption or exception. Those without permits must isolate for 14 days and receive a fine of up to $4957.
“I think it’s overkill,” Mr Goudswaard said of the lockdown systems.
He went to the Test in Melbourne, which was spaced out. The smaller numbers sapped some intensity – at one stage, the crowd tried to get a Mexican wave racing around. “It didn’t have the same feel,” Mr Goudswaard said.
There was an advantage to lesser crowds, though. “It was easy to get a beer,” he said.
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