Seven reiterates Cricket Australia rights warning

Cricket Australia said it will deliver a full schedule of matches this summer using bio-secure hubs to limit Covid-19 risks but has yet to verify a schedule, while rights-holding broadcaster Seven Network has doubled down on its warning over its agreement.

The details of an adjusted timetable are expected to be released in the coming weeks and will include a four-test series with India and one against Afghanistan together with the dates for the men’s and women’s domestic Twenty20 competitions.

The lack of clarity on a confirmed schedule has, however, prompted criticism from commercial free-to-air broadcaster Seven, which pays around A$82m ($59.8m/€50.3m) a year to CA for the rights as part of its six-year deal.

According to 7News.com.au, interim CA chief executive Nick Hockley said a full schedule will take place with bio security and health and safety of the players throughout the summer the priority.

Travel restrictions and border controls due to a second wave of Covid-19 in the state of Victoria, are thought to be hampering CA’s planning.

Australian cricket’s iconic traditional Boxing Day test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground is also in doubt but Hockley said it was “way premature” to decide on it.

“Creating hubs and concentrating content as the other sporting codes have done throughout the winter is something we’re likely to have to do in the early stages of the season….We are hoping the situation improves, I think clearly it’s going to be a busy and full summer, for both the international playing group and the domestic group and WBBL.

Seven’s chief executive James Warburton told The Telegraph: “It’s the most incompetent administration I’ve ever worked with, It’s a train wreck….We are forced to consider all our options including terminating the contract and we have put them on notice.”

He warned earlier this week that Seven could “telecast grade cricket for free” if the situation was not resolved. Warburton suggested that the “massive” fee Seven pays for the rights warrants more clarity on the playing schedule from Cricket Australia and has admitted that the situation has been “frustrating” for the broadcaster.

When asked by The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald whether Seven’s agreement with Cricket Australia would be revised amid the uncertainty, Warburton replied: “Ultimately …they need to look at what is possible to deliver, stop talking about international borders being closed, or borders being closed, and start to look at what really is the season we are going to deliver.

“Like we have done with the AFL, our obligation then is to really deliver something for the fans and the players and to put our best foot forward for all of our commercial partners as well. But, at the moment, you pick up the paper every day and you read four or five different things.

“You have got the Australian T20 and one-day captain saying one thing, you have got the coach saying another, you have got BBL franchises talking about no international players – or [having more] grade cricketers.”

CA has faced tough financial conditions this year, in addition to an upheaval in the management of the governing body.

In June CA announced job losses, a pause of international tours and executive pay cuts as it worked to streamline its finances, outlining details of A$40m of cost cuts over the next financial year. Hockley was appointed the interim chief executive of the organisation in June, replacing the outgoing Kevin Roberts.