Seven's Warburton hits out at CA over India tour uncertainty
James Warburton, chief executive of Australian commercial broadcaster Seven Network, has criticised Cricket Australia’s organisation of India’s lucrative tour of the country starting next month, with the governing body yet to announce a concrete schedule and host state for the matches.
The initial part of the tour is slated to comprise three one-day internationals on 27 and 29 November, and 1 December, and three Twenty20 internationals on 4, 6 and 8 December, to be followed by four test matches, but CA has not confirmed the dates, and, amid complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic, is still in discussions with various state authorities over where the games will be played.
Warburton claimed time is running out for the governing body to reveal the schedule and bring India’s team into the required state for a two-week mandatory quarantine period for the A$300 million ($212 million) tour.
He told the Sydney Morning Herald: “We love cricket. We’ve got a huge amount of respect for the teams and the athletes but, ultimately, this is actually about Cricket Australia delivering the quality of the product and living up to their obligations with the contract.
“Here we are on the 21 of October – we don’t have a schedule. We don’t know what port they will arrive at and, obviously, there’s been plenty playing in the press and looks like there’s huge pressure on New South Wales Health, given Western Australia, South Australia and it looks like Queensland may have said ‘no’.”
Seven and CA have been at loggerheads over their rights deal, with the broadcaster, and pay-TV operator Foxtel, which also shows Australian cricket, seeking discounts over what they perceive as a lower quality offering amid Covid-19 restrictions in the 2020-21 season.
CA has deals with Seven and Foxtel worth a combined A$1.8 billion over six years from 2018 to 2024. Seven pays A$82 million annually in cash and contra over three instalments per year for test matches and most games in the Big Bash League, the domestic Twenty20 competition.
Responding to the comments, CA said submissions to South Australia and Queensland to quarantine India had not been rejected, but the Western Australian government had not been approached.
Yesterday, NSW Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney minister Stuart Ayres and NSW Health confirmed the New South Wales government had received a submission from CA, but no decision had been made.
The submission said the India team would be travelling from the United Arab Emirates where the Indian Premier League is being held, and would arrive on either 11 or 12 November.
Warburton insisted Seven has every intention of broadcasting the test matches against India once a resolution has been reached, but that the network still needs to renegotiate the price it paid for the BBL, with arbitration taking place.
Seven has been irked by what it sees as a drop in quality in the BBL amid coronavirus restrictions.
Warburton said: “The next piece to play on is the quality of the BBL. We’ve been very, very public about that, if that means we’re outspoken then so be it but we paid a huge amount of money for the rights.
“We’ve been able to re-cut our deals with other sporting bodies … and even re-cut a deal with the International Olympic Committee [for the rights to the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games]. The arbitrator will make a decision when we get a revised scheduled as to what the value equation is. That’s the stance we’ve taken.”
The Australian Chamber for International Commercial Arbitration is due to confirm an independent expert to determine whether Seven deserves a reduction in fees and, if so, by how much, by the end of the week.
Seven and CA rejected eight independent candidates put forward by either side on the grounds they were not qualified or had conflicts of interest.