28 Nov

The feud between Cricket Australia (CA) and its free-to-air broadcaster has reignited, with Seven West Media's CEO accusing the governing body of having its "head in the sand" and wasting an opportunity to start the men's summer with a bang. 

The opening one-day international between Australia and India at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday night was broadcast only on pay television provider Foxtel, which has exclusive rights to all white-ball international matches held locally. 

This contract was brokered by former Seven managing director Tim Worner in 2018 when his network agreed to pay A$450 million (US$332.3m) as part of an overall A$1.18 billion (US$871.4m), six-year deal with Foxtel. 

Worner's successor, James Warburton, who was later involved in confirming the deal, said that CA should have started this summer with the prime-time, day-night Test against India in Adelaide, which is scheduled to start on December 17. 

Warburton's latest broadside comes as the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) prepares to announce an independent expert, that CA and Seven have finally agreed upon, who will make a ruling on Seven's claim that it deserves a cut in its A$70 million (US$51.7m) annual cash fee. Seven had rejected a 20 per cent offered by CA. 

"There aren't many sports that would launch their season behind a paywall. We have got a process we are going through to maximise the season and to be fairly compensated for the value reduction caused by the changes to the schedule and other changes," Warburton said. 

"It's a shame that the cricket administration have kept their head in the sand. They really don't value us as a broadcaster, preferring to outperform to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), who they are terrified of." 

Foxtel enjoyed strong ratings for Australia's six-wicket win, averaging 328,000 viewers - this rising to 387,000 for the evening session when India batted. The match was also shown on Foxtel's streaming service Kayo. Game two of the series will be played on Sunday, also at the SCG. The original CA schedule had the Test series, which Seven broadcasts in conjunction with Fox, at the start of the summer but this was flipped in part to better accommodate India, ahead of its home series against England. BCCI boss Sourav Ganguly told the Sunday Age and Sun-Herald this had been a necessary move. 

Seven argues the fourth Test against India, in Brisbane from January 15, will be held at a time when many people are back at work and ratings are down. 

The network is also seeking a cut in its annual payment as it argues the Big Bash League (BBL), beginning December 10, has not only been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, but lacks the star quality it expected when the contract was signed two years ago. 

However, CA rejects that assertion, having done a mountain of work just to ensure the tournament could go ahead in difficult times. CA has also lifted the number of imports allowed by each of the eight franchises from two to three. 

Regardless of the ACICA's deliberation, another potential flashpoint looms this month with Seven threatening to take its claim to the Supreme Court in Melbourne where it could push to terminate its contract. However, sources close to discussions say Seven had the opportunity to do that in recent weeks when neither side could agree upon on an independent expert. 

Seven initially issued a breach-of-contract notice in September but has continued to fulfil its contract, broadcasting the women's international series between Australia and New Zealand, and the Women's Big Bash League. The WBBL has enjoyed bumper ratings but CA has questioned why some matches, including Saturday night's final featuring teams from the two mass markets of Melbourne and Sydney, was not shown on Seven's primary channel. 

John Stephenson 


#Cricketnews #CA #SevenWestMedia #ACICA #BCCI

* The email will not be published on the website.