Australia news May 7, 2014

BBL changes contracting rules

ESPNcricinfo staff

Big Bash League teams will be able to replace squad members who are unavailable due to national duties next summer, one of several changes to the competition's contracting rules. A second trade week will also be introduced to allow teams to refine their lists, and the salary cap has been bumped up from $1.05 million to $1.2 million for each side.

Last summer, the rules regarding replacement players were relaxed to allow injured players to return to a squad after being replaced - previously if an injured player was replaced, his tournament was over. This time, a similar rule will allow players called up by Australia to be replaced in the squad and return to their BBL side when they again become available.

The move should help those teams who are heavy on international talent, while also meaning sides are not disadvantaged if a player is unexpectedly promoted to the national side. Mike McKenna, the executive general manager of operations at Cricket Australia, said the change was an extension of last season's injury regulation.

"We want fans to be able to watch the best available players, so it's important the rules encourage clubs to continue to contract players who may have national commitments over the summer," McKenna said. "This rule change will minimise the impact on clubs for the period of time that their players are with the Australian team."

The eight BBL sides can begin contracting players from May 19 and must have signed at least 10 players by July 11, before finalising their 18-man squads by December 5. There will now be two trade weeks, one at the start of the contracting period and one in November, in which players may be transferred between teams, though it is not necessary for a side to receive a player in return for giving one up.

The trade periods can help sides to ease any salary cap pressure they may be suffering, although the salary cap has been boosted by nearly $200,000. Cricket Australia said the higher amount was part of an increase in player payments across all men's competitions after CA's revenue was bolstered by last year's media rights agreement, which included a $100 million deal for the BBL to be shown on free-to-air television.

A set of figures released to Sydney's Daily Telegraph has shown the effect of the exposure offered to the BBL by the Ten Network during the 2013-14 season. A tournament conceived and launched primarily to attract new follows to the game appears to be doing so.

BBL matches consistently attracted television audiences of around 1 million viewers per match, a figure near to those maintained by the AFL and NRL football codes and well in advance of those for the A-League and the Super Rugby competition. Ground attendances that averaged about 19,000 per fixture were on pace with every sport but the AFL.

Other figures in the study conducted by Gemba showed that:

* 42% of crowds came to their first BBL game

* 1 in 5 BBL attendees came to an elite cricket match for the first time

* Over 50% of attendees were with family

* 24% of BBL attendees are kids vs. 9% at Tests

* 51% of women attended their first BBL game

* BBL is the clear favourite format of cricket among kids aged 5-15

"We have unashamedly designed a competition and marketed a competition to attract new people to the game," the CA chief executive James Sutherland said. "If it doesn't do that it won't last because it's not a good investment for us. We're excited to see that data."

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