“It’s just politics. There is nothing cricket as a sport has done to warrant a discussion about a reduced fee,” she said.
“As a sports fan and a cricket administrator, it is always disappointing when anybody challenges the quality of the competitions, particularly in a time like this.
“We have watched the AFL play without superstars like [Gary] Ablett, [Joel] Selwood, Buddy [Lance Franklin], all sorts of players, and that’s the nature of sport, but we have the overlay of a pandemic. So, let’s call it the beauty of the politics of sport.”
CA is working at easing the “quality” problem through interchangeable BBL and Test hubs and even opening its own chequebook to secure overseas talent for the BBL – but it remains to be seen how successful that is.
A revised BBL and international schedule has yet to be released but is expected to be done so this week. This could ultimately see Melbourne not host India on Boxing Day because of COVID-19 issues, leaving India to play in Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane, with one state firming to host back-to-back Tests. Perth may also miss out on its one-off Test against Afghanistan.
Seven chief James Warburton made his feelings clear again to CA on Friday, while Foxtel chief Patrick Delany is due to meet with interim CA chief Nick Hockley on Tuesday. Both networks have engaged lawyers.
Seven pays about $82 million in cash and contra per year while Foxtel hands over more than $110 million. Under the previous deal with Nine Entertainment Co, owner of this masthead, Nine paid $80 million per year for Tests, one-day internationals and Twenty20 internationals.
As part of the Foxtel deal, the subscription service provides a 24-7 cricket channel and was given exclusive rights to international white-ball matches as well as 16 BBL matches. Seven’s deal, secured by former chief Tim Worner after the network had lost its tennis rights, included the majority of BBL matches, and it’s here where Warburton’s frustration has grown since he took the top job.
BBL ratings and attendances have slipped in recent years and a lack of international and Australian star power has hurt at a time when officials made what even Australian white-ball captain Aaron Finch said was the wrong decision to extend the number of matches.
“Anything is only worth what people are willing to pay for it. At the time, Seven and Fox determined that’s the value. Whether it’s the right thing or not, we’ll know that in another two-and-a-half years when it’s renegotiated,” Matthews said.
Foxtel is due to meet with CA in Sydney on Tuesday, having had their meeting postponed from last week.
Matthews, the former Australian wicketkeeper, reached the final rounds of CA’s hunt to replace former chief James Sutherland in 2018 before Kevin Roberts was appointed. Roberts departed amid a financial storm in June.
Australia’s most-capped female Test player and one of a handful of women in the world to hold a CEO position at a first-class cricket association, Matthew said she remained interested in the CA role although there was no formal process underway yet to fill the position permanently. She praised how Hockley was handling a tough situation.
“If Jolimont wants me, I would be happy to talk to them but I am very happy where I am. I think Nick Hockley is doing a tremendous job. We’ll just wait and see how the cricket rolls out this year and what happens,” she said.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.