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Friday, 22 January 2016 10:39

How Cricket Australia blocks promotion of women's cricket Featured

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The digital age has provided us with more benefits than we care to enumerate. But at the same time, it has given people and organisations the ability to say one thing and quietly do another to a much better extent than before.

The case of Cricket Australia and women's cricket is but the latest to illustrate this point.

This summer season, the organisation has been running its first Twenty20 competition for women – what it calls the Women's Big Bash League (there is a similarly named competition for men which is in its fifth iteration). Eight clubs, same as in the men's competition, play each other in a round-robin format and then the top four go into a knockout round to play semi-finals and then a final. The first semi-final was on Thursday and the second is today (Friday).

The public response has been much greater than anticipated. Yet at the time Cricket Australia is loudly proclaiming that it is promoting the women's game, it is also quietly putting hurdles in the way of coverage.

Images from the women's games are fed through to news media via the Getty images service. And all images from the women's games come with a watermark on them, ensuring that they cannot be used as such. These  images are available through the regular Getty service to which many newspapers and online media subscribe.

To obtain watermark-free images, one has to go to the Getty archive, log in — every subscriber has an account — and then download the images from there. Oh, yes and there's the little matter of paying a sum of $200 per image.

Those with advanced photo-editing skills can remove the watermarks – but they would be anyway charged for use of the picture.

This is happening at a time when both old media and new are struggling to make ends meet as the digital era begins to replace the old hard-copy age.

Is Cricket Australia, then, short of a buck or two? The short answer is no. Indeed, this summer season, the response to the women's and men's competitions — the latter much more — has been staggering. For one men's match, the organisation was prepared for a crowd of 50,000 and then found itself overwhelmed when more than 80,000 turned up.

The turnstiles have been clicking without a pause. Despite the regular summer season fare — Tests — involving two rather mediocre teams in New Zealand and the West Indies, overall Cricket Australia has hit a goldmine.

The watermarks are also present on some images from the men's competition. They have been also there on a portion of the  images from the games against the West Indies and New Zealand and, now, India. But in the case of the women's game, it is on all images.

Back to that $200 fee. Exactly how this amount is split between Cricket Australia and Getty is not known, but it is strangely reminiscent of what the Indian cricket board — a byword for shonky practices — did some years ago. The board — or the Board of Control for Cricket in India to give it its painfully long moniker — suddenly decided that it would impose a hefty fee on any photographers or photographic agencies who wanted to take pictures of international cricket series in India.

The fiat was issued just before the start of a series between India and England and all the photographers, rightly, refused to bow to this outrageous demand. Some of the British newspapers poked fun at the demand by using graphics of stick figures to illustrate on-field incidents. And the Indian board was pilloried left, right and centre for its stupidity.

The board continued with the practice for a few years and then dropped it. It earned continued criticism for its stance.

Surprisingly, Cricket Australia has not yet had a word of criticism in the mainstream media for imposing the extra charge for images. When it tried to charge fees back in 2007, it earned condemnation from the media.

Why are the women cricketers and their clubs not objecting? Could it be that they are unaware of this obnoxious practice?

How does the media promote women's cricket without pictures?

It is ironic that a time when people are talking about the death of Test cricket, a national cricket body behaves in such a manner. Women's cricket needs this kind of promotion like it needs a bullet straight to the brain.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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