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ICC Women's T20 World Cup raises the bar

After years of planning, strong investment and bold, ambitious goal setting, the recently completed ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 raised the bar for cricket and women’s sport in Australia and globally.

Television broadcast, digital audience and attendance numbers from the tournament, which ran from 21 February to 8 March, set new benchmarks and the event connected more people with cricket, including many new fans.

BACKGROUND & PLANNING – SETTING A VISION AND BUILDING A FOUNDATION FOR SUCCESS

From when the T20 World Cup was awarded to Australia in 2014, to taking lessons from the successful ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup a year later and closely observing the last time the men’s and women’s showpiece events for international T20 cricket were played in the same country in India in 2016, the vision was for Australia to take the women’s game to a new level. What followed was the unprecedented move to host not just one but two major global cricket events in the same country in the same year.

Making the women’s and men’s T20 World Cups standalone was inspired by giving each event their own space and as far as possible, equal billing. More than that, the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup was viewed as a platform to promote diversity and inspire future generations who could see with their own eyes that women can and should have the same opportunities as men.

Doing this ambition justice meant taking the event right across the country and playing in world-class venues in prime-time slots. This required unprecedented collaboration and multidimensional support for a women’s sporting event, from federal, state and territory governments, all of Australian cricket and an array of stakeholders such as broadcasters, venues, volunteers, commercial partners and fans. 

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Investment in promotional activity had to be commensurate with the men’s event to cut through and reach vast audiences not previously exposed to women’s cricket. Affordable ticket pricing was implemented to make the event as accessible as possible to fans and families, with all children’s tickets just $5 and adult tickets from $20 for all matches, including the final.

While the planning and preparation was taking place, more broadly across cricket strong progress was being made to bring equality to the game. A standalone WBBL competition in Australia was introduced, while the ICC significantly increased prize money for the T20 World Cup by 320 per cent and future women’s events. Furthermore, Cricket Australia committed to topping up any prize money won by the Australian women’s team to be equal with the men, then in late 2019 introduced a game-changing paid parental policy.

TOURNAMENT HIGHLIGHTS

The stage was set for the biggest women’s sporting event ever held in Australia. It started when the hosts and defending champions were defeated by India in front of a then-record crowd for women’s cricket in Australia of 13,432 at Sydney Showground Stadium. The tight on-field battle played in front of a big crowd that night was a precursor to a tournament that featured close finishes, superstar performances and highly competitive cricket.

In all, the tournament comprised 23 matches played between 10 teams in six host cities and eight venues around the country, with crowd records broken across the board.

Stars of the game were recognised and scrutinised like never before, with front and back page coverage across Australia and even around the world a testament to the growing, genuine media interest. Alyssa Healy went from having her pre-tournament form criticised by the media in ways rarely seen in women’s cricket before, to being rightfully praised as the player of the match on the biggest stage in the final.

New and future stars were born, including 16-year-old Indian batting sensation Shafali Verma, who amazed crowds with brutal hitting and was a key reason why more sixes were hit than at any previous T20 World Cup (76 sixes / 62.4 balls per six compared to 2018 – 75 sixes / 65.1 balls per six). Meanwhile, more established greats like New Zealand’s Sophie Devine, England’s Heather Knight and Australia’s Beth Mooney received deserving widespread praise because of their on-field accomplishments.

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There were no more inspiring stories than that of Thailand. The Southeast Asian nation’s stunning rise to contest their first major world cricket event, having played properly for barely a decade, highlighted the role of cricket’s shortest format as the global growth vehicle for the game. Rain on the final day of the group stage in Sydney prevented what looked likely to be an historic first victory at a World Cup.

With International Women’s Day falling on Sunday 8 March 2020, the planets aligned to hold the final on the day when women’s achievements are celebrated globally. A record crowd for women’s cricket of 86,174 packed the Melbourne Cricket Ground and watched global pop superstar Katy Perry perform before hosts Australia claimed victory over India to put the exclamation mark on an event that was much more than a cricket tournament. Present were former greats of the women’s game who played without recognition and in some cases without any income from cricket, yet in doing so paved the way for current and future generations to deservedly reap the rewards of being world-class performers.

It was a familiar sight when Meg Lanning held the trophy aloft, the fifth time an Australian skipper has done so in the seven editions of the Women’s T20 World Cup. But it was no easy task for the Aussies, who had to overcome numerous challenges throughout the event to prevail, including a gripping semi-final victory over a team emerging as a future force, South Africa.

The final was the most-watched women’s cricket match in Australian broadcast history, and globally it generated over one billion video views across official ICC digital platforms, making it the most watched ICC women’s event ever and the second most successful ICC event after the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019. Women’s cricket position as a commercially valuable product was enhanced.

The ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 showed what is possible when investment, ambition and collaboration collide in the right way. The event can be a moment when there was a positive shift in the way women’s cricket and sport is covered, consumed and appreciated.

ICC T20 World Cup 2020 Local Organising Committee CEO, Nick Hockley, said: "The way fans engaged with the event, through attending matches to watching on television and consuming via digital channels, shows that women's cricket appeals to massive audiences all over the world.

"By reaching vast audiences and connecting new people to the game, hopefully the ICC Women's T20 World Cup can inspire future generations who were able to see with their own eyes the way cricket was played and showcased."

Australia’s Minister for Youth and Sport Richard Colbeck said the success of the Women’s T20 World Cup and the triumph of our home team was a global moment for sport. “It showcased the women’s game like never before,” Minister Colbeck said.

“The World Cup also demonstrated the power of sport and major events to bring people together while simultaneously setting a path for others to follow and inspiring our next generation of stars.”