Channel 7 have reportedly made a bold move in their ongoing dispute with Cricket Australia over their TV rights deal, sending a legal letter indicating their intention pull out of the deal.
The network reportedly escalated the dispute earlier this week, sending a legal letter informing Cricket Australia they planned to cancel the remainder of the $450 million contract to broadcast the sport.
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The Daily Telegraph reported CA had been given 14 days to respond to Channel 7’s notice.
Cricket Australia told the newspaper it was not a termination letter.
Channel 7 believe the 2020/21 Big Bash League will be severely impacted by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with reduced crowds and player availability diminishing the product to such an extent that it represents a breach of contract.
CA have held firm in their legal position all along, that it is upholding their end of the deal if a full schedule is provided.
This week's notice could prove the first step in Warburton following through on his threat to walk away from cricket.
However, at this stage Seven is yet to declare that is its intention.
CA and Seven have both sought legal advice about the standoff.
Seven's next payment to CA, worth approximately $25 million, is due on Tuesday.
I seriously doubt Ch7 will go into the summer without a major sport to broadcast. In the end I predict Cricket Australia will end up signing a longer deal for less money like all of the winter codes ended up doing. #Cricket
— Mark Gottlieb (@MarkGottlieb) September 11, 2020
Repercussions are huge across the sport.
Surely Cricket Australia must concede its product doesn’t hold the value it has in recent summers given the pandemic. https://t.co/L2sdALa8aL
— Shane McInnes (@shanemcinnes) September 11, 2020
The spat will become more heated if the broadcaster fails to meet that deadline, as looks to be increasingly likely.
"Cricket Australia remains in ongoing discussions with the Seven Network about delivering a compelling summer of cricket," a CA spokesperson said.
"CA is committed to fulfilling its contractual obligations to all its partners this season."
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CA boss Hockley met with Seven West Media counterpart Warburton on September 4, for the first time since public criticism from the network.
Both sides have remained at loggerheads over the broadcast deal, with Seven and Fox seeking a reduction from their six-year agreement worth close to $1.2 billion.
Hockley has insisted there should be no discount offered for broadcasters, given a full schedule of cricket will be played despite COVID-19.
However that prompted Warburton to last week label CA a "train wreck", amid concerns over an altered schedule and uncertainty surrounding the quality of the Big Bash.
But that tone cooled significantly following Friday's meeting between the pair, ahead of the next deadline for payment in mid-September.
"We had a constructive meeting with Cricket Australia. No decisions were made but we have agreed to keep talking," Warburton said.
It came as CA confirmed the entire 59-match Women's BBL season would be played in Sydney from October 25, with no games lost due to the virus.
In a statement on Friday, the organisation claimed "the move demonstrates the commitment across Australian Cricket to host the full summer of cricket".