Is there a point to watching matches in the stadium?

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The new, modern Wembley stadium. Image source: 1.

Two thousand six hundred and eighteen.

In case you’re wondering what this number represents, it is the number of toilets present in the new Wembley stadium at London, which was constructed in 2007. Unsurprisingly, it is a record for the maximum number of toilets present in a venue. Somewhere, many stadiums worldwide are metaphorically turning their heads away in embarrassment.

2816. It is a number worth repeating over and over again. What is even more surprising is that this stadium which was constructed at the eponymous area of Northwest London is primarily used for footballing activities of the English football team. It must be remembered that football is a game normally played over 90 minutes, give or take a few based on interruptions, injuries or playacting (or both). Add a 30 minute buffer on either side of the game along with a 15 minute interval, the whole exercise is done within three hours—enough time for a human with normal excretory functions to contemplate a visit to the facilities.

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The biggest acts routinely have concerts in the Wembley stadium. Image source: 2.

Assuming Wembley is fully packed and that everyone toilet is equally accessible for everyone, one toilet roughly serves 35 people over the course of three hours. Very reasonable indeed. It must also be noted that Wembley also hosts a variety of programs other than football—rugby, American football, boxing and music concerts to name a few.

Now contrast this with going to watch a game of cricket at a cricket stadium in many venues across India. Remember, it is a game that lasts 6-8 hours in the longer formats, with a far greater chance of er…..feeling the pressure.  Picturing enough ammonia generation to manufacture Nitric acid by the Ostwald process? You’re not far off from the truth with that visualization. This is just one case where watching the game at home (or selling your kidneys, depending on your predilections) is a better option.

Is there a point at all of turning up to watch a game of cricket at the cricket stadium?

In the days of cricketing yore, going to the stadium was the only way one could hope to see their heroes in action. Back in those days, if you were lucky to be close to a stadium, you could catch a game involving the national team in a match once or twice a year. Most of the times, the venues would not be used, or, would host only local matches.

Slowly but surely, mass media in the form of radio and television have now shrunk the spaces between the fan and the action. Fans today have access to top class broadcasting. One can only imagine the kind of experiences future fans would have with the advent of virtual reality.

Today’s television broadcasts vastly surpass the experience of watching a player live in the stadium. Multiple camera angles guarantee that one set of viewers don’t have to only view players’ posteriors for half the time, but are guaranteed a complete view of cricketing action. Action replays add a more forgiving window to fully absorb and assimilate the various happenings of the match. Missed an outrageous catch? Did the player look to deliberately handle the ball? No problem—the television screen will resolve it for you.

Then there is the issue of cost and convenience.

A Direct to home (DTH) package for sports costs a fraction of the ticket price, and this is for the cheap seats alone. Seat numbers are still not a universal feature; a first come first serve basis ensures an arms race to the best seats (that too on flimsy plastic chairs) within a stand. A knock-on effect of this is that fans have to arrive a good two hours before the start of the match.

Cabs are expensive—places where the stadiums have been built are far away from most of the city (Rajkot, Hyderabad, Pune come to mind). Parking is a nightmare. Buses and trains to the venue are overcrowded. The demand for these far outstrips supply the moment the match is done. Fans have to contend with overpriced food and severely diluted beverages—a respectable name for highway robbery and sophisticated titration experiments. And then there is the dreaded trip to the loo that we talked about at the start—something that shouldn’t be attempted without the aid of assisted respiratory equipment.

Considering that old stadiums were built at a time before the penetration of television, it is natural that they were designed maximize for gate receipts for the one or two paydays that the association would have in a year. Would you rather care for the comfort of the spectators when you could cram in a few hundred extra when people would do anything to get in? However, in the IPL era, the rarity of the occasion that demanded a visit to the stadium has gone down with too many me-too matches.

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Rain can cause frequent interruptions to the game of cricket. Image source: 3.

What about the opportunity cost? The time spent on the road, and to get a good seat could be used for something useful. A podcast perhaps? Forty winks? Snuggling up to a good book? Picking up a new hobby? Catching up with near and dear ones? A night out on the town? And what if the match turned out to be a damp squib like the ones in the Champions trophy so far? Worst case scenario at home, I could change the channel zapping around commercial breaks (or as the cut the cord-ers prefer, stream the latest episode), lazing around in my jammies. What could go wrong?

Yes, I might miss a chance to take a selfie with my favourite player—it is easier to win a lottery anyway. I might miss the ritual, communal experiences of singing along chants and soaking in the atmosphere as a player goes about his business in the middle. And, when and should the truly awesome match present itself in a venue that I have braved to experience, I will miss having the “I was there” know-it-all, smug punchline when I converse with my friends. But I certainly won’t miss the weary commute, the maddening crowds, or the overpriced food. And, I’d rather save up on the continence for older age rather than risk overusing it in my youth.

Disclaimer: The images used in this article are not property of this blog. They have been used for representational purposes only. The copyright, if any, belongs to the respective owners.

 

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