The Seven Network’s legal action against Cricket Australia (CA) is the deepest cut in two years to threaten coverage of the game this summer.
Seven has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court to end the $450 million TV rights deal and seek damages for “multiple quality and standard violations.”
The bulk of these alleged breaches stem from the quality of the Men’s Big Bash League (BBL), which Seven has compared unfavorably to the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The IPL is considered the number one T20 tournament in international cricket. It regularly features Australia’s top male cricketers, including Test captain and vice-captain, Pat Cummins and Steve Smith, as well as David Warner.
All three have not played in the past editions of the BBL.
Additionally, the IPL features many of the game’s top international stars, while the BBL has failed to attract those same players in the seasons hit by COVID.
The details of Seven’s claim are set forth in the 49-page claim statement filed in federal court and obtained by ABC Sport.
In the claim, Seven argues that its media rights agreement (MRA) with CA meant that the BBL should have been equal in the quality and standard of the IPL, but was far from it in a number of key areas, including:
- quality of players
- the amount of the salary ceiling
- not having auctions for every franchise.
Seven argue that CA should not have planned BBL matches in competition with men’s internationals.
“Players playing in the Men’s One-Day International Match, the Men’s Twenty20 International Match or the International Exhibition Match involving a secondary ‘Australia A’ team and competing International teams (being players of at least the highest quality and standard) may not playing in the Seven BBL match, which will reduce the quality and level of players available to play in the Seven BBL match,” the statement reads.
“At all relevant times, the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) has never scheduled an international match where an Indian national men’s team competes with an IPL match.”
Seven’s claim says match scheduling meant Australian players – such as Smith, Aaron Finch, Alex Carey, Ashton Agar, Marnus Labuschagne and Adam Zampa – were unable to play in the BBL.
The claim goes against the quality of last season’s BBL tournament, which was hit hard by COVID, forcing teams to use lower players as a supplement.
It mentions the time the Sydney Sixers played assistant coach Jay Lenton despite Smith being available to play for the franchise but not allowing CA Smith to play.
“It would have been reasonable if Cricket Australia had prioritized taking steps to make Steve Smith available, as Steve Smith is a world-class player whose absence is expected to diminish public interest and the size of the audience broadcast. said the claim. stated.
The claim notes that one player, Justin Avendano, appeared for the Melbourne Stars against the Perth Scorchers and played for the Sydney Sixers against the Scorchers just a week later.
According to the claim, CA’s organization of the 2021-22 BBL season “undermined the franchise rivalry necessary for matches of a quality and standard at least equal to the highest quality and standard in the world”.
In the same season, Seven went against CA’s decision to schedule the first 12 games in Tasmania or Canberra.
Seven says that decision “would likely generate a significantly reduced broadcast audience and public interest in the BBL men’s tournament compared to the broadcasting audience and audience interest generated by playing matches at other venues available. are for Cricket Australia”.
Seven’s claim argued that CA should have allowed an IPL-like auction so that each franchise could bid for the best players in the world.
“A domestic T20 tournament – with players of at least the highest quality and standard in the world – should feature some of the best foreign players,” the claim said.
Call to lift BBL salary ceiling
Seven argue that the BBL should have had a salary cap that was “calculated to attract, and was able to attract, players suitable for matches of at least the highest quality and standard in the world, rather than a salary cap on explain that BBL tournament franchises for men prevent the attraction of such players”.
The claim compares the BBL salary cap for the 2021-22 season, of $1.9 million per team, with the IPL cap of approximately $15 million per franchise, for a league that runs five days less.
It points to similar differences in the salary ceilings of the two competitions over the past two years.
And while the IPL allowed four foreign players per franchise, the BBL allowed only two for the 2019-20 season and three for the following two seasons.
Seven concludes that CA has breached her contract for each of the first three years of her MRA.
The alleged breaches all relate to what it believes to be CA’s failure to provide a world-class BBL competition equal to the IPL.
Seven is seeking damages for an amount yet to be determined and the termination of the last two years of her TV rights agreement.
CA, for its part, has hit back in a media statement, saying it is “astonished that Seven has taken this unwarranted action, which will be vigorously defended”.
“CA remains immensely proud of the efforts of the Australian cricket family, including players, match officials, sponsors, stadium managers, host governments, staff and volunteers whose hard work, dedication and expertise have enabled us to deliver two exceptional cricket seasons in unprecedented circumstances,” the statement read.