Cricket Australia's Twitter reality check

It's time Cricket Australia aligned its venue entry rules with reality and officially allowed photos to be taken at venues for non-commercial use.

Cricket Australia is open to changing its policy on spectators posting photos taken at the game on social media sites, says chief executive officer James Sutherland.

The comment comes after Technology Spectator questioned the group on the draconian rules of entry that apply to fans taking photos at a cricket match and publishing them to Twitter or Facebook.

When asked about the rules on photo sharing, which it appears are designed to meet the demands of broadcast partners, Sutherland told Business Spectator: “From season to season we review all the major operational aspects … if there are reasons we see that are on balance better for the Big Bash league then we’ll be very open to making changes in that direction”.

Sutherland says Cricket Australia will be talking with its media and broadcast partners about what has and hasn't worked during the season.

In the meantime, the official Cricket Australia Twitter account and least two Big Bash T20 teams are openly encouraging fans to take match photos and share them online, muddying the legal waters around Cricket Australia’s terms of venue entry for spectators.

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Cricket Australia’s rules state that it is a condition of entry to the venue that patrons agree:

“Not to broadcast or narrowcast by any means whatsoever (including, without limitation, by way of mobile telephone, modem or other wireless device) any images, sounds, data, results or commentary of or concerning any of the matches or other activities at the Venue without the prior written consent of Cricket Australia;”

Legislation backs up the rules with financial penalties. Clause 12(1)(p) Sydney Cricket Ground and Sydney Football Stadium By-law 2009 clearly states that “Prohibited behaviour within Ground” includes “contravene any condition to which the person’s entry was subject”. The penalty notice for that offence is $165 for breaking the terms of venue entry.

A listener called in during the ABC NSW Local Radio’s evening show discussion about this issue last Friday.

The caller recalled sitting in the SCG member’s area during a cricket match and seeing an SCG staff member stop a spectator taking a photo of the Australian players as they came out of dressing rooms heading for the playing area. The spectator was told by the SCG staff member not to take any more photos.

Former Cricinfo writer Rick Eyre tipped us off that the Melbourne Star’s T20 team Facebook page had encouraged fans at the beginning of the season to take photos at matches and share them using Twitter and Instagram using the identifying tag #feelthepower.

Further searches of the official social media pages for the two Melbourne T20 Big Bash teams revealed several examples of the teams promoting fan photos taken at matches through the official team Twitter and Facebook accounts.

At the beginning of play on day one of the 4th Test between Australia and India the official Cricket Australia Twitter account encouraged spectators: “If you are at the match, be sure to send us a pic using #AusvInd and it may appear on the big screen”.

Dominic Villa, a Barrister with Seven Wentworth Chambers in Sydney, told Technology Spectator: "It is certainly arguable that a tweet from the official Cricket Australia account encouraging spectators to tweet test match photos counts as 'prior written consent' for the purposes of the conditions of entry, or alternately is a variation of those conditions of entry."

It would seem likely most fans are unaware of the rules banning spectators taking photos at a Cricket Australia match and sharing them online, even for non-commercial purposes. It’s now clear that Cricket Australia’s Twitter account and several Cricket Australia teams have inadvertently encouraged fans to break their owner’s rules for venue entry.

Apart from this awkward fact, these are many examples of social media being used well by sporting teams to encourage fan engagement with players and each other. This greater engagement could result in more word of mouth about the matches and potentially increase ticket sales.

It's time Cricket Australia aligned its venue entry rules with reality and officially allowed photos to be taken at venues for non-commercial personal uses such as publishing to personal social media accounts like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Flickr.