THE full extent of cricket’s “Sandpapergate” brand damage has been revealed in new research that shows the once treasured national team is now the least popular of Australia’s major sports.
A survey of fans in the allimportant 14-34 age group reveals the cricket team now even trails the struggling Wallabies, who are experiencing one of their worst runs in history.
The cricketers need more performances like Friday night’s against South Africa when Aaron Finch’s team snapped an 8-game ODI losing sequence.
The Socceroos, on the back of the World Cup in Russia, are now Australia’s favourite sporting team in front of the Kangaroos, who have had real growth under Mal Meninga’s leadership and the recent spike in interest in the international game.
It is remarkable considering rugby league is strong in only NSW and Queensland.
Much of the credit should go to Meninga and the work he has done since his appointment in 2015 to revive international football and put respect back into the Kangaroos jersey.
The recent Test match against Tonga in Auckland drew a bigger average audience (283,000) on Fox Sports than last weekend’s opening Australia-South Africa cricket ODI in Perth (248,000).
And the rugby league had to compete with Channel 9 while the cricket was available only to Fox Sports viewers.
The research showed other fantastic results for rugby league, with the Jillaroos narrowly more popular than soccer’s Matildas.
But the big story is the cricket turn off after Sandpapergate.
The same research four years ago showed the Australian cricket side was the No. 1 team in the country. Now only 8.8 per cent of fans in the 14-34 age group rate the cricket team as their favourite national sporting side.
Soccer boss David Gallop was delighted by the findings.
“This is a simple and compelling demonstration that football unites the country like no other sport,” he said. “We are proud of our diversity and multicultural community and football provides a glue that will only get stronger in the years to come.
“The recent Socceroo debuts of South Sudanese refugees Thomas Deng and Awir Mabil shows why football is such a force in the country. The world game brings Australians from all culture heritages together.”
Despite the strong recent growth in women’s sport, the female numbers were well down.