London: A new study by the University of Sheffield and Nottingham University Business School has cast fresh doubt on the future of One-Day International cricket by revealing the key drivers behind spectators' dwindling enthusiasm for the format.
With England and Wales set to host the next ODI cricket World Cup, researchers have warned that fans have little appetite for one-sided thrashings – even if their own team wins.
Research found many are not even interested in whether their own side is good or bad and instead prize drama over quality, preferring close matches with uncertain outcomes.
The findings, based on an analysis of almost 35 years' worth of data, come amid controversy over the World Cup's structure and fears over growing inequality in the sport.
Only 10 teams will take part in the 2019 World Cup – down from 14 in 2011 and 2015 – which is likely to mean fewer of the game's lesser lights will feature in the tournament.
Co-author of the study Dr Ian Gregory-Smith of the University of Sheffield's Department of Economics, said: "The organisers of the World Cup face a significant challenge over one-sided matches.
?If the tournament is to be a success then careful thought must be given to its structure, because consumer appetite for predictable fixtures is undoubtedly limited."
Professor David Paton of Nottingham University Business School, added: "There isn't necessarily a problem with having minnows at the World Cup. If two of the smaller nations were to play each other, for example, then they ought to produce a close contest – which, according to our findings, is what fans want to see.
"But the authorities have to be careful to minimise the number of fixtures with too big a difference in team quality, otherwise overall attendances are likely to be poor."
Economists from the University of Sheffield and Nottingham University Business School studied more than 500 ODIs played in England and Australia between 1981 and 2015.
They examined variables including attendances, team strength, outcome uncertainty and even spectator wages to identify trends in demand for 50-overs-a-side matches.
It was found that in England ODI fans most value uncertainty – unlike Test match spectators, who, according to earlier research, are driven mainly by team quality.