Thousands of tickets still on sale for Lord's Test

GEORGE DOBELL: Lord's has an outstanding record for ticket sales and may have thought it was almost recession-proof. This may serve as a wake-up call and could provoke some worries for the long-term viability of Test cricket


The MCC have defended the cost of tickets for Lord's despite underwhelming sales for the first Test of the LV= Insurance series between England and New Zealand.

Despite more than 16,000 tickets remaining available over the first four days of the game, the MCC have claimed that prices – ranging from £50 to £160 for adults – offer "good value".

But the Cricket Supporters Association (CSA) has accused "cricketing authorities" of "[not] thinking about fans… about getting kids and families to a Test match or about making sure cricket is welcoming and accessible".

The MCC are, to some extent, the victims of a perfect storm. This game comes at a time when there are numerous competing events for potential spectators – not least the Platinum Jubilee celebrations – and a cost of living crisis the like of which most of us have not experienced before. At the same time, there is talk of a tube strike in the coming days and England's Test results have been disappointing; they have won only one of their most recent 17 Tests. As a consequence, it's probably not the easiest time to persuade people to spend so heavily to watch them.

We should not exaggerate the lack of sales, either. As things stand, just over 1,000 tickets remain available for day one, around 2,200 for day two, 4,300 for day three and almost 10,000 for day four. At almost every other ground in England, those would be full houses across the first three days. It's worth noting that Trent Bridge, with a capacity around 50 per-cent that of Lord's (which is around 31,500), is sold out for the first three days of the second Test. There is some irony in the MCC having recently spent around £25m to increase capacity by around 2,000.

There will be some disquiet at the figures, though. Lord's has an outstanding record for ticket sales and may have thought it was almost recession-proof. This may serve as a wake-up call and could provoke some worries for the long-term viability of Test cricket.


The first Test between England and New Zealand will be Ben Stokes' first since replacing Joe Root as captain (Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

At the same time, it is a reminder that the game's inclusion crisis extends to race and gender and economics. Put simply, the sport has been overly reliant upon a relatively small demographic – the privately educated, in particular – for a long time. All those years of putting the televised sport behind a paywall, all those years of selling off playing fields… perhaps they're coming back to bite.

To be fair, the ECB were coming to this conclusion already. They might well use it to justify the birth of The Hundred and claim it is just the format to reengage a new generation of supporters. Whether they could have used the pre-existing T20 format to do that remains debatable.

"Ticket prices for the LV= Insurance Test Match between England and New Zealand at Lord’s range between £50 and £160 for adults, and between £20 and £40 for Under-16s in certain categories, for the opening three days of the match," the MCC said in a statement. "Adult prices start from £35 on day four, and £20 for adults and £10 for concessions are available for the fifth day.

"With The Queen's Platinum Jubilee double bank holiday weekend also taking place, we have seen a reduction in our usual expected attendance numbers. However, sales remain strong for the opening two days of the match and across our other international fixtures this year, with our India ODI being sold out.

"Whilst we recognise that the top price tickets available are at a premium price, we believe that across the whole ground, this represents good value to watch top class international cricket at one of the world's most iconic sporting venues, with many pricing points available.

"Furthermore, there are opportunities to watch cricket at Lord's to suit many budgets in 2022. Adult tickets in The Hundred begin at £10, with tickets for Under 16s priced at £5. The England v India Women's One-Day International sees all adult tickets priced at £25, and Under 16s also at £5, whilst Vitality Blast tickets begin at £20 for adults and £10 for Under 16s."


Brendon McCullum is England's new men's Test coach (Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

That explanation didn't seem to convince Becky Fairlie-Clarke, the CEO of the Cricket Supporters' Association. She makes the point that, while those cut-price tickets look attractive, there are relatively few of them. And she claims "many supporters" have cited the "high price of tickets" as a reason for not attending.

"Obviously there are a variety of contributing factors," Fairlie-Clarke said, "but the high price of tickets is undoubtedly one of them. In these uncertain times, we've been told of many supporters who couldn't afford the tickets in the first place or were unsure about buying tickets early and are now faced with astronomically high prices (£110-£160 per ticket with no concessions for under 16s) which they just can't afford.

"We (the CSA) are frustrated because once again the cricketing authorities aren't thinking about fans, about getting kids and families to a Test match or about making sure cricket is welcoming and accessible.

"The MCC would have known ticket sales were down weeks ago and so could have opened up the ticket sales with a different pricing structure for this particular game. It isn't rocket science, but this could have been a great opportunity to showcase Test cricket to a wider audience at one of the best grounds in the world."

The modest sales figures are something of a surprise, though. With an exciting new pairing of captain and coach, there would have been hopes that spectators might have been inspired to attend. This was a point referenced by Stuart Broad at Lord’s on Tuesday, who reiterated the team's commitment to play an attractive "style of cricket".

"It's not just results, it's the style of cricket [that’s important]," Broad said. "From the outside when you see Brendon McCullum and a Ben Stokes mindset come together it's pretty exciting.

"To attract the fans, we have to build on that style of cricket and have a style that people want to watch. Trent Bridge has sold out for the first three days, so there is still that support for the team. From a player's point of view, we have to make that commitment that we want to be exciting and draw people through the gates."

There may be a long-term benefit to all this. If cricket's authorities realise that spectators cannot be taken for granted, if they realise they have to reach beyond their normal demographic, if they understand that the current direction of the game has taken the sport down a dangerous cul-de-sac, this could prove a catalyst for change. If it doesn't, we may have to get used to banks of empty seats.



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