15 Oct

Cricket Australia (CA) are preparing to splash the cash on international stars to add box-office appeal to the Big Bash League (BBL) as it emerged the sport's governing body had taken a key step in its broadcast rights fight according to the Sydney Morning Herald (15 October).

In a move that will address Channel Seven's concerns over the quality of the Twenty20 league, foreign players could be offered more than A$140,000 (US $99113) to take part in the eight-week tournament. CA has also offered up a list of names it feels can complete an independent valuation of the broadcast rights, despite having privately questioned whether it is obliged to head to the tribunal with its free-to-air TV partner.

While the likelihood of Steve Smith and other Australian Test stars featuring remains uncertain, BBL clubs are on the verge of announcing some significant international recruits. England World Cup heroes Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy’s availability could hinge on whether their country's tour of South Africa, scheduled for November-December, is given the green light. BBL boss Alistair Dobson said nothing had been confirmed as to how the competition would secure elite Australian talent.

The plan to pay a third international from a lucrative payment pool outside of the salary cap is still to be rubber-stamped by the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA), who have traditionally expressed concern to local money heading overseas.

A window has been cleared for Australia's Test stars to play close to the last three weeks of the BBL but the likes of Smith, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins do not hold deals. David Warner's manager has indicated the star opener is unlikely to feature. Sources involved at clubs have said the lack of clarity over the schedule was hampering recruiting as well as Bubble fatigue for several players who will by the end of the Tests against India have been in a biosecure hub for five months.

While CA searches for international playing talent, it has made a key move in its fight with Seven by providing a list of names it feels could independently assess the value of this summer's broadcast rights.

Seven, seeking a significant cut on its A$82 million-a-year fee (US$ 58m), had taken its case to the Australian Chamber for International and Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) and has lodged its own list of prospective independent valuers, including businessman Harold Mitchell.

CA could yet take its case to the Supreme Court in Melbourne and seek an injunction, delaying any finding until after the summer is completed. Seven has not ruled out terminating its A$450 million ($US 318.5m) contract.

The BBL schedule is yet to be released, but sources say the event will start December 10 with a final on February 6.

John Stephenson


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