It’s first crisis – what the Big Bash should do

This article fist appeared in Mumbrella on 16 January 2016

By Andrew Woodward, consultant at Partnership Marketing and former head of global sponsoring communications at Visa Inc in San Francisco.

Australia’s Big Bash cricket is undoubtedly one of the top global sports success stories of the last decade. For a new tournament and a relatively new form of a game, it is only outdone by its Indian counterpart, the Premier League, in terms of success when it comes to sponsorship, television audiences and crowd numbers in grandstands.

It’s Australian success is due to pure marketing genius. There’s non traditional city colours and names (like, the Sydney Sixers play in magenta rather than the state colours of blue like Sydney FC and the Waratahs); the pricing to attend a match is dirt cheap – $20 for an adult and $5 for a child; the match goes three hours and not eight hours or five days; it is on every night during a dull time on TV; the commentary is good fun and refreshing and, the on screen presentation is way different (like, you never see a score card and the players are ‘mic-ed’ up). Did I also mention it is fun, exciting and totally engaging. I am a fan and it has grown on me and many others. It is awesome in so many ways – professionally and personally.

But the Big Bash League is facing its first crisis. What should it do with Chris Gayle? The first order of business today is for the Melbourne Renegades CEO, Stuart Coventry, to immediately end the contract of one of the best players the beleaguered West Indies has ever produced. He’s crossed a line, kept going and, as it turns out, gone way past the line before. Cricket Australia has to have zero tolerance for this sort of behaviour. Sponsors, broadcasters and spectators want nothing to do with a serial creep. He has no future in the game in Australia and possibly elsewhere. If Stuart Coventry doesn’t sack him, he himself should be sacked by Cricket Australia CEO, James Sutherland, for inaction.

Gayle’s behaviour on television in Hobart on Monday with Mel McLaughlin was appalling enough. Then via ABC Grandstand on Tuesday we learned that he’s hit on two female reporters in an unwelcome and intimidating manner at media events in years gone by. Overnight it was alleged that he partially exposed himself to a female staff member during last year’s Cricket World Cup. To borrow a phrase from baseball, three strikes and you are out. Worse, Gayle last night Tweeted a picture of himself going out partying in Melbourne wearing a Playboy shirt emblazoned with “$EXSELL$”. Yes, really. Cultural differences are no excuse. He just doesn’t get it and has no place in the game in Australia. If you or I did what he did in the workplace, we would be frog-marched out the door by 10 am this morning.

As a crisis manager you only have to turn to page one of your manual on how to deal with situations like this. You have to end it completely, quickly and unreservedly. There’s no middle ground. There’s no probation, suspension or fines (which have zero impact for someone earning $2 million for a month or so work in the Indian Premier League). And let’s not confuse the issue with a push into women’s cricket or attracting female audiences as a reason for action. That’s not the issue. This is an issue about workplace behaviour.

Ask yourself the following question: As a sports governing body CEO, corporate marketing or sponsorship chief or TV network program director are you ever going to use Chris Gayle in your advertising, promotions, presentation, hospitality or other leveraging activities ever again? The answer is no. He is a player with no future in Australia. So why prolong the pain, end it today. Crisis solved.

Link to the SMH article on the t-shirt last night.


Link to ABC Grandstand interview


Link to SMH re exposure


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