Dunedin dad Aaron Hawkins went to the cricket and all he got was his pram banned. Here he questions the decision of New Zealand Cricket to exclude families from watching his beloved game.
As a long suffering test cricket tragic it’s my job to pass that obsession on to my one-year-old son, so off we went on Wednesday morning to see the first session at the University of Otago Oval. Where once it may have been coveted for its libation-smuggling potential, the stroller he was in now served far more practical purposes: stable sleeping options, mobile shade, and a way for me to carry all of his endless Baby Stuff.
It was at the gate that I was told: “No prams”.
“It’s not the venue’s policy, it’s New Zealand Cricket’s”, I was told. Quite apologetically.
It wasn’t Armourguard’s policy either – so no point picking fights there.
I could have put it back in the car (had I not arrived on foot); I could have left and gone home; or I could ditch it outside the venue where security couldn’t guarantee its safety. Begrudgingly (because these things are bloody expensive and losing it doesn’t bear thinking about), I took the last option, until more family arrived later and took it away.
What reasons could there possibly be for banning prams?
I was desperate to know, because nothing I could come up with made any sense.
Were prams blocking the view of the action?
Most of the ground is a grass embankment with people sitting on the grass or on low-rise lawn furniture chairs. A fully erect Phil & Teds would be difficult to see around, but they can also pack down when not in use. They’re not any more of a view block than the occasional parked up wheelchair. I wouldn’t expect to be able to have them up everywhere, but surely you could allocate a section of the bank to allow for it. Wouldn’t the designated Family Zone would be a good place to start?
Did they think prams were taking up too much space?
There is practically no limit to the picnicking accouterments you can take into the cricket. BYO food is a dying breed in the world of events and it also helps make it an affordable day out so I’m not complaining at all. But to put it in context – in our group we had hampers, picnic rugs, and sun umbrellas. And let’s be honest, the number of us tragics isn’t such that the ground was running out of room.
Was terrorism and Sneaky Drinking Dads the problem?
I have no issue with people searching my stroller for weapons, or hip flasks, in the same way they can search my backpack. I’m used to being ‘randomly screened’ at airports and I wouldn’t let such an indignity come between five days of sporting fortitude.
So what reason could there be?
Who knows? What I know is this: The pram ban undermines what seemed to be concerted efforts by Cricket New Zealand to make the game accessible to younger people. Tickets for each day are only $5 for under 14s and you can bring a packed lunch with you. An arbitrary ban on prams in the name of consistency across venues, noting some stadiums are more difficult than others, is unnecessarily lazy. These aren’t insurmountable problems. Getting rid of the ban would go a long way to making international cricket a great, accessible, whānau-friendly event.
I was lucky. I had reinforcements coming to help me and we got ourselves out of the situation. I do know, though, that for many people this policy would make it impossible for them and their family to attend a match. They’d miss the opportunity to spend an hour or two at one of the country’s most spectacular sports grounds, indoctrinating the next generation of players and fans of our summer game. If you’ll allow me a mixed sporting metaphor, that feels like a bit of an own goal for cricket.
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Aaron Hawkins is a Dunedin city councillor and former host of Radio One’s breakfast show.
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