Steve Smith dragged into ugly Cricket Australia dispute

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·Sports Reporter
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Steve Smith's unavailability for the Sydney Sixers in last season's BBL finals is among a number of grievances Channel 7 has filed against Cricket Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)
Steve Smith's unavailability for the Sydney Sixers in last season's BBL finals is among a number of grievances Channel 7 has filed against Cricket Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Steve Smith has been directly referenced in Channel Seven's legal action against Cricket Australia, as the network seeks an early termination of the $450 million TV rights deal signed in 2018.

Channel Seven has filed claims of "multiple quality and standard breaches by CA", with their primary complaints revolving around the Big Bash League.

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Court proceedings are set to get underway early next year, with Seven committing to uphold the existing contract until the dispute is resolved in court.

Among the network's biggest complaints was Smith's unavailability for the BBL Final last season.

Though the Sixers had room on their list to accomodate Smith once he had wrapped up with the Test team, the team was not allowed to select him, as players had to come from a designated pool of local top-up players.

Cricket Australia are believed to be largely happy with the product, the organisation saying in a statement that they were 'astonished' at the claims levelled against them by Seven.

"CA is astonished that Seven has brought this unwarranted action which will be strenuously defended," the organisation said.

"CA remains enormously proud of the efforts of the Australian Cricket family including players, match officials, sponsors, stadium operators, host governments, staff and volunteers whose hard work, dedication and expertise allowed us to deliver two exceptional cricket seasons in unprecedented circumstances."

The issue between the two parties appeared to be over after mediation last year, resulting in a marginal discount in the network's fee.

However it long since simmered in the background, as CA were ordered to hand over pre-discovery documents by the Federal Court last August.

Thursday's announcement would therefore have come as no shock to CA officials in the Jolimont head office, or CEO Nick Hockley in Galle at the first Test.

Channel Seven seeking early end to cricket rights deal

CA hope the introduction of the draft can help revitalise the BBL and take the Twenty20 competition back to its glory days.

Seven's statement came on the same day Faf du Plessis was unveiled as the Big Bash's first marquee overseas player to join the overseas player draft.

"Seven's intention is to terminate the MRA (Media Rights Agreement), conditional on the Federal Court granting a declaration that Seven is entitled to do so," a Seven statement seen by AAP read.

Cricket Australia is facing legal action from Channel Seve, who are unhappy about the quality of the Big Bash League in recent years. (Photo by Mike Owen - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)
Cricket Australia is facing legal action from Channel Seve, who are unhappy about the quality of the Big Bash League in recent years. (Photo by Mike Owen - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

"Seven has the right to waive this condition.

"The damages action is not conditional.

"Seven will continue to perform its obligations under the MRA (in terms of telecasting Tests and BBL etc.) until terminated.

"Seven has pursued the informal dispute resolution procedure under the MRA but the procedure failed to resolve the dispute."

Federal Court paperwork was first lodged by Seven against CA in 2020, with the parties regularly trading public barbs.

Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton once declared CA was "the most incompetent administration" he had ever worked with.

The ownership structure of clubs also remains a significant issue in the BBL, with both Cricket NSW and Queensland vocal in backing private ownership this week.

With AAP

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