TV’s plan to save fading Big Bash
BROADCASTERS have demanded Cricket Australia take urgent steps to arrest the declining standards of the Big Bash League.
There are still three weeks remaining of the inaugural 59-game season but already robust discussions have been instigated behind the scenes by Seven and Fox Cricket, who are growing increasingly agitated about their $175 million-a-year investment.
It's understood the TV rights holders are not arguing to reduce the number of games, but are lobbying hard for other dramatic changes they believe necessary to save the extended seven-week competition from withering on the vine over the course of their six-year deal.
There's a belief that the lack of resources for the BBL to even compete for A-list international names like AB de Villiers and Andre Russell has led to a talent and star power crisis for many teams forced to fill their rosters up with club cricketers.
Seven and Fox believe a season running as long as the Indian Premier League can work, but only if other critical measures are taken to support the move to an elongated schedule.
Broadcasters are screaming out for:
*A major increase to the current $1.7m salary cap to bring back international stars;
*A boost in the number of international marquee spots from two per side to as many as four;
*A crackdown on the dire state of pitches being used around the country that has ruined the spectacle at many grounds with fewer sixes and lower scores; and
*Amendments to the schedule to help bring back crowds
On Sunday night, Channel 7 promoted on their twitter feed a view from Brisbane Heat star Chris Lynn that the season is too long:
"I think 14 games (per side) is too many … that's just the vibe I'm getting."
Lynn's comments might not have accurately reflected the network's view, but the post - and the reaction to it - encapsulated the widespread angst behind the scenes from broadcasters, players, coaches and fans alike who feel the competition has gone backwards.
Television ratings for the Big Bash this summer are exceeding both Seven and Fox's expectations, but both rights holders fear for long-term sustainability unless immediate changes are made by CA at the end of this BBL season.
The big beef for broadcasters is they feel the chances of a 59-game season succeeding have been badly compromised by such a negligible increase to the salary cap - and want to see the mega dollars they have laid out for rights, better invested in the BBL.
Under the MOU, the salary cap is only increasing by about $75,000 per year - grossly inadequate according to the networks who have despaired as the likes of de Villiers, Russell, Chris Gayle and Jason Roy - not to mention David Warner and Steve Smith - have featured instead in the Bangladesh Premier League, which offers more money for less work.
The few stars that have signed up for this BBL have in many cases have required a large slice of the cap and left teams to fill-out their rosters with club cricketers - leaving former players like Dean Jones, Mark Waugh and Darren Berry to bemoan the poor standard of fielding and batting.
Broadcasters don't believe two internationals on each roster is enough and are demanding more overseas signings, but CA could potentially face opposition from the Australian Cricketers Association if there are less jobs for homegrown players.
There is a hopeful belief that CA will listen to the growing discontent.
Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts has openly acknowledged that pitches in the first half of the BBL were largely unacceptable, and isn't shying away from making scheduling tweaks, but he has flagged the prospect that a BBL salary cap increase could take money away from Sheffield Shield players.
"(The salary cap) is certainly something we'll keep an eye on over time," said Roberts on SEN.
"We need to be competitive absolutely in terms of player payments and make sure we really cement the position of the BBL in the top two domestic T20 leagues in the world. It's a challenging topic.
"If you're paying players more for one format then you need to reduce pay in another format typically. Would people want to see reduced pay for other forms of domestic cricket? I doubt it.