Australia BBL news – Early start early finish for the BBL might see overseas players stay longer

The BBL is set for one of the earliest starts and earliest finishes in competition history with the 13th edition of the tournament set to run from December 7 to January 24 and could allow overseas players to stay for the majority of the season, after issues with retaining talent last year.

Australia’s men’s home international schedule is the main reason why the tournament will start so early in December and finish on a Wednesday in late January, four days before the school holidays end on January 28.

Australia play their first Test of the home summer against Pakistan in Perth from December 14 to 18. The BBL starts with seven primetime games in seven days from December 7 to December 13 but will pause completely for the Perth Test before recommencing on December 19.

Australia are also scheduled to play a day-night Test against West Indies in Brisbane starting on January 25. The BBL opted to move the season forward to avoid the finals clashing with that match.

A benefit of the earlier season means that overseas players may be able to participate in more of the tournament. Last season, which was the first after the BBL had introduced an overseas draft, began on December 13 and ran until February 4.
But with the South Africa T20 and ILT20 starting on January 11 and 14 respectively last year, and offering far larger salaries to overseas players, the BBL saw a mass exodus of their marquee overseas draft signings mid-season. Faf du Plessis played just seven games for Perth Scorchers and Rashid Khan played just eight for Adelaide Strikers before heading to South Africa. Trent Boult played eight games for Melbourne Stars while Andre Russell played four for Melbourne Renegades before departing for the ILT20 in the UAE. Even Australian Chris Lynn missed the last three games of Strikers season to go to the UAE. Strikers lost their last three matches without both Rashid and Lynn to miss the finals.

Dates for the 2023 SA T20 and the ILT20 have yet to be released and the BBL has not moved the season forward specifically to avoid clashing with those leagues. But the head of the BBL, Alistair Dobson, hoped an earlier start and finish to the tournament could mean overseas players can stay for the majority of the season.

“We are optimistic again of getting the biggest name players from around the world playing,” Dobson said. “We’re in discussions at the moment with a number of agents given nominations for the draft are open. And early indications are that players are really keen to play again. I think starting a week earlier than we perhaps normally would is a great opportunity for players to come and play most if not all of the BBL season again. Early discussions with agents and players are pretty positive.”

A date for the BBL draft is set to be finalised in the coming weeks but it is likely to be held in late August as it was last year and it will be combined with the WBBL overseas draft that is set to take place for the first time.

The draft rules, order, and player contract bands are set to be very similar to last year, although there will be some minor modifications to the platinum player salaries depending on how many matches they are available for. A platinum player will earn AUD$420,000, up from AUD$340,000 last year, although that could be reduced to AUD$360,000 if they play less than eight games. The gold band moves to AUD$300,000, silver AUD$200,000 and bronze AUD$100,000.

The BBL season has also been reduced in length a year earlier than expected following CA’s new broadcast rights agreement with existing partners Channel Seven and Foxtel.

The old agreement is due to expire at the end of 2023-24 and was supposed to include a 56-game home-and-away BBL season (14 games for each team) and a five-team, five-game finals series. But the new deal has been brought forward a year to revert to a 40-game regular season (10 for each team) with just four teams playing finals, which is the same structure as the 2017-18 season.

The new structure means that not every team will get to play each other twice. Dobson confirmed that there was no specific formula to work out which teams would play each other twice, with the exception of scheduling two Melbourne and Sydney derbies each.

“We deliberately didn’t set any parameters or guidelines around it,” Dobson said. “Given some of the unique considerations this year around venue availability and the shape of the season, we left ourselves with as much freedom as possible to make sure we got the biggest games and the best games in the right slots. We’ll see how this unfolds and how it plays out over the season and whether going forward there are some more guidelines we put around that or whether we just see how it shapes up each season.

“It’s been a number of years since we’ve had to have a schedule where not everyone plays each other twice. It was something that we looked at closely in terms of when we got to those final few matchups who played who. But often it wrote itself.”

The BBL will have an issue around the finals series with Adelaide Oval and the Gabba unavailable due to the Tests between Australia and West Indies. The BBL is working with both Strikers and Brisbane Heat on alternative venues if they are to host a final.

There are only five doubleheaders and no tripleheaders in the schedule. There is also no game on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day but neither have been ruled out as options in the future.

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