Cricket Australia (CA) has dismissed suggestions from executives at Channel Nine that the network should have a say in team selection under its lucrative new five-year broadcast deal.
Nine managing director Jeff Browne told a business lunch on Wednesday the network needed the best players on the field all the time to maintain ratings, making clear it had concerns over CA’s rotation policy last summer.
“I understand why sports want to do that, but people at home want to see the best players playing and we urge Cricket Australia to pick the best players every time ... we’ve got to have the best players on the paddock to rate,” Browne said.
“I think we’ve got a better understanding on that,” he said. “Last year that balance was skewed too much in favor of resting some players so from now on there will be a lot more discussion between CA and the broadcaster about that.”
However, CA chief James Sutherland quickly skittled any suggestion that the broadcaster would have direct input or even influence over selections.
“Cricket has a long-standing and successful relationship with the Nine Network but team selections and scheduling are matters for Cricket Australia,” he said in a statement late on Wednesday. “The national selection panel selects the Australian teams. With the volume of international cricket being played, it will continue to be necessary for us to manage player workloads appropriately.”
Channel Nine made headlines last year when it protested the rotation of players in the Australian team for one-day internationals.
According to The Australian, commentator Ian Chappell stormed out of a meeting with Cricket Australia after it tried to explain the policy of resting top stars, including Michael Clarke and the big-hitting David Warner.
Channel Nine, featuring veteran commentator Richie Benaud, signed a A$450 million (US$418 million) deal last month to continue showing Australian home Test and one-day matches as it has done for more than 30 years.
Having paid so much money, reports said Nine was keen to increase its influence, particularly on the scheduling of Test matches and other internationals during the Australian summer. A priority is to ensure the first Test is switched from Brisbane to Perth to boost prime-time viewing on Australia’s east coast. Perth is three hours behind the east coast during the summer, with the Test still being played as people return home from work.
“We’re talking about those sorts of things to add broadcaster value,” Browne was quoted as saying by The Australian. “We don’t mind paying [for rights] if we can get some value for it.”