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Aaron Finch: BBL jump from 10 to 14 games was 'too drastic'

The Australia captain hopes that a return to the cricket field will help focus minds ahead of the home summer

Daniel Brettig
Daniel Brettig
Australia's T20 captain Aaron Finch has stated his frank belief that the Big Bash grew too quickly in size when it leapt from a 10 to 14 match regular season either side of the most recent broadcast rights deal currently being disputed by the free-to-air rights holder Seven in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Desperate for a discount in their share of the A$1.2 billion rights deal struck in 2018 due to a worsening financial outlook for the network, Seven and its outspoken chief executive James Warburton have repeatedly asked Cricket Australia for fee reductions. First they did so on the basis of content being reduced due to Covid-19 and more recently on the flimsier premise that quality will be affected by Australian players going into quarantine hubs for international fixtures against India.
In truth, the BBL has always been part of delicate scheduling dance between formats and competitions for CA, and the major jump in the length of the tournament in 2018 has made it still less likely that the likes of David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, plus any number of high-profile overseas names, would be involved.
Finch, who led the Melbourne Renegades to their first title in 2019, said that while players would have varying views depending on how well or otherwise they were playing, he felt the jump to 14 games, to help bump up the broadcast asking price two years ago, was too much, too soon.
"All in all, I think going from 10 to 14 was probably a little bit too drastic a jump straight away, maybe if there was a middle ground there for 12 and trial that for a little period, but it's still a great product and something that we're proud of. I think that's all a bit subjective to how you're playing as a person at the time - I think if you're flying as a batter you want to keep playing as much as you can, but I know there's been some stats around potentially cutting it back and what that looks like for fans.
"We want to play as much cricket as we can and I'm not sure exactly what that right number is. I think as long as the quality stays there, I know it's going to be a little bit different this year with Covid-19 and the potential for some hubs that will change the outlook."
Finch's words were not dissimilar to the earlier suggestion of the former Seven and Ten executive David Barham, instrumental in building the BBL's rights value between 2013 and 2018, that bigger was not always better as far as audiences were concerned.
"It's so easy for sporting administrators to think we need more money, let's play more, let's do more," he told SEN Radio earlier this year. "It's not necessarily the best answer; the NFL rights have been going through the roof and they haven't changed the number of rounds ever as far as I can tell.
"It depends on your ratings...35 games to 61 is a massive increase that is way out of proportion. That's really tested everybody, and it was a school holidays sport that was doing a million people a night on Channel Ten averaging more than what AFL and NRL did on a per-game basis. So you go from a million people a night, and I think they've dropped 40% in ratings by expanding. You've got to look and think carefully before you think that the answer is just putting on more games."
Having been a part of the BBL since its conception, Finch admitted he had become concerned by the amount of speculation surrounding the competition as CA, Seven and Fox Sports wrestled with how to stage it this summer. For his part, Finch was hopeful that the return of the national team to play after a lengthier break than planned due to coronavirus would help shift focus from the game's finances and politics to cricket itself.
"I think it's a great product, and yes it'd be nice if Australian players were available more, but I think just in the current climate with the scheduling there has to be a little bit of give and take from everywhere," he said. "I know CA are working really hard to try and work around it as best they can and come up with some really positive solutions.
"Whenever there's no content being played it gives people a lot of time to sit around and come up with a lot of theories. The fact we're back tomorrow is really exciting and hopefully we can let the cricket do the talking from a lot of different aspects. I think that one thing that's been really pleasing is coming over here and letting go of everything else and really digging into training and focusing on the game coming up.
"It's going to be a quick series and then on the back of that, there's domestic cricket around the world and at home. Guys are excited but really looking forward to trying to put some positive headlines out there."
CA's chief executive Nick Hockley had scheduled meetings with the chief executives of Foxtel and Seven on Thursday and Friday this week.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig