Fans must stand up and be counted

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Empty stadiums are part of the problem in South Africa. The fans get angry but they don't go to the games.

Johannesburg – When India were in the country in December, there were murmurings about boycotting matches to protest the shortening of that tour.

As it happened, the two Tests were poorly attended anyway. The Wanderers attracted a crowd of over 10000 on just one of the five days while attendance at Kingsmead was just a disgrace.

Judging from feedback on radio call-in shows, letters to newspapers, comments on websites and opinion on social media platforms, there was plenty of anger at the BCCI for shortening that tour, a lot of people believed the best way of showing their anger was not to pay for tickets to the stadium.

Distrust of Cricket South Africa still lingers from the “bonus scandal” and just a general antipathy South Africans have towards sports administrators (Sascoc, Safa and even the Sports Ministry). That anger may not have played an overwhelming role in the poor attendance (scheduling a Test in December in Joburg wasn’t smart), but it played a part.

Graeme Smith and his team would have watched the Ashes Down Under recently with a fair amount of envy. Packed stadium after packed stadium greeted the Australian and English teams and even when matches were of the “dead rubber” variety folk still turned up to watch.

Smith made an appeal via twitter for people to head to the grounds and support his side as they battle Australia in what should be a rip-roaring series.

Unfortunately for Smith, there have been more muttering about “boycotts” and protests as the ill feeling over the proposals to revamp the administration of the International Cricket Council take shape.

People are, quite rightfully, angry again. The sport is being chopped up – into large chunks for India, England and Australia – and South Africa, Pakistan and the rest get smaller pieces. Matches against the “big three” will be conducted as and when that trio deem themselves worthy of engaging with the lesser lights.

With one of the “big three” in the country more talk of protesting has arisen.

I’ll be interested in what form these protests take. Banners, placards at stadiums? More chirps on social media platforms?

I wasn’t all that in favour of boycotting the Tests against India – nor am I now for the Australians – if anything, empty seats suggest a country not interested in cricket and that’s not the impression I get from interacting with people in pubs, around the braai or on-line.

I’d suggest packing the stadiums out; bring along the posters and placards and banners telling Messrs Clarke, Srinivasan and Edwards where they can get off.

Would that work as an effective form of protest? Will you be protesting? Or, has cricket and all the drama of recent years, just left you too pissed off to care anymore?

The Star


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