The men’s Big Bash will be shortened next summer with Cricket Australia to bring forward changes in the tournament structure set to be implemented under the new TV rights deal.
The competition will revert to a 44-game season (40 home-and-away matches plus four finals) in KFC BBL|13 and future seasons, 12 months in advance of CA’s extended seven-year broadcast deal with the Foxtel Group and Seven West Media that runs from 2024 to the end of the 2030-31 summer.
There will be no change to the length of the women’s Big Bash schedule next summer, with Weber WBBL|09 to remain a 59-game season (56 regular season matches plus three finals).
The reduced BBL season will include a new four-match finals series featuring the top four clubs (down from five matches and teams in BBL|09-BBL|12), with the finals structure to be confirmed closer to the season.
While the WBBL also has a four-team finals series, that involves only three matches, meaning the BBL’s structure will be slightly different and an entirely new format for the competition after a three-match layout in the first eight seasons.
CA’s general manager of Big Bash Leagues, Alistair Dobson, said they would continue to review the length of the WBBL and ways to innovate the competition to ensure it remained the top women’s cricket league in the world.
“A shortened BBL will allow us greater flexibility to ensure we can deliver the best possible fixture for clubs and fans, while providing a platform that allows players to continue to produce the world-class levels of cricket we’ve seen over the duration of the tournament,” he said.
“Whilst no changes have been made to the WBBL schedule, it’s vital that we make sure the tournament continues to be at the forefront of T20 Leagues as the global women’s game continues to evolve at a rapid rate.”
The BBL previously had one season with 10 home-and-away matches per club in the final year of the league’s previous broadcast agreement with Channel 10 that expired in 2018, with that number scaled up to 14 matches for each club when Foxtel and Channel Seven won the rights ahead of the 2018-19 summer.
But after average crowds declined over the first two seasons of that deal before the onset of the pandemic, and with the BBL taking up more days in the calendar than any other domestic T20 league besides the Indian Premier League, CA has adopted a ‘less is more’ approach to continue to build on the competition’s resurgence last summer, that saw the league’s fourth-highest crowd of all time attend the final between Perth Scorchers and Brisbane Heat at Optus Stadium.
It’s hoped a more condensed tournament and competitive salaries will continue to entice T20 cricket’s biggest names to travel to Australia to play in the BBL, while also providing greater relevance for each game in the context of the season to continue to drive strong attendances and TV audiences.
Also new this season will be the ability for clubs to trade draft picks, with the order again to be confirmed via a lottery ahead of the BBL|13 and inaugural WBBL draft expected to be held in September.
Clubs will still be required to have at least one selection in each round of the draft, but potential trades could include two clubs trading picks across more than one round where both teams would move up the order in one round but down in the other.
This could be beneficial for a club with a later selection in the first round who wants to move up in the second round – for example, Team A (having picked seventh overall) trades picks 15 and 18 to Team B (who had the second overall pick) in exchange for picks 10 and 23, meaning Team A moves up in the second round but down in the following third round.
Another potential exchange could involve trading picks in the same round but including players – for example, Team C trades a domestic player and their first round pick to Team D in exchange for an earlier first round pick.
This scenario would be beneficial for a club if they were planning to pass in a particular round.
Trades could also involve more than two clubs.
In another first, the league will introduce a week-long retention window for both the BBL and WBBL competitions where clubs will get first rights at re-signing no more than 12 men’s and 10 women’s players. This includes players already on multi-year deals but excludes overseas and local replacement players.
This year’s retention window will begin at 9am on May 15 and will end with the lifting of the contracting embargo and beginning of the trade period on May 22.
It means the Scorchers will not be able to re-sign star opening batter Cameron Bancroft during the retention window having already reached their 12-player limit, with three other clubs – Melbourne Renegades, Sydney Thunder and Hobart Hurricanes – believed to be interested in securing the West Australian’s services.
The Scorchers have been able to keep almost their entire championship-winning squad together despite significant salary cap pressure, with Bancroft, leg-spinner Peter Hatzoglou and superstar allrounder Cameron Green – who would be a prime candidate for one their two new Marquee Supplementary List spots – the only players still unsigned.
The Thunder have two spots available to retain players from last season, while the Hurricanes and Adelaide Strikers each have three, Renegades, Melbourne Stars and Sydney Sixers four and last season’s finalists, the Brisbane Heat, have the most with five spots available.
Confirmation of the trade period – that will run from May 22-November 30 for the BBL, and May 22-October 12 for the WBBL – will also see the mooted Adam Zampa and Sam Harper exchange between the Stars and Renegades allowed to be processed.
In the WBBL, the Strikers, Heat and Renegades each have three list spots available during the retention window, the Sixers have four, the Hurricanes, Scorchers and Thunder five and the Stars six.
Full fixtures for each competition are expected to be announced in coming months.