It has been a big year for cricket broadcast rights in Australia with Cricket Australia signing new broadcast deals with Nine and Ten.
Building on a year of new deals, Cricket Australia has today announced that the Nine Network will be the exclusive broadcaster of the new look Ryobi One-Day Cup. Matches will be broadcast on Nine’s digital-only channel GEM.
In surprise news the Ryobi Cup will no longer be a summer tournament played across the country. Instead, it will be played as a four-week tournament in Sydney during October. Cricket Australia has said the new timing of the tournament will mean players will not have to switch regularly between formats over the course of summer, allowing for better preparation. It is also likely that Cricket Australia and Ten wanted the KFC T20 Big Bash League to be the key short-form domestic tournament over the crucial school holiday summer period.
The Ryobi Cup will be played over 20 matches, with teams playing six matches each. The top-ranked team at the end of the tournament will go straight to the final, while teams finishing second and third on the ladder will play an elimination final to decide who plays in the final.
In a win for Sydney and its suburban grounds, the one-day domestic tournament will hold 14 matches out of the 20 matches at Bankstown or North Sydney Oval (these will be the broadcast matches). The remaining matches will be held at Hurstville, Blacktown International Sports Park and Drummoyne, but it looks like these matches will not have TV coverage.
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland said:
“Playing the RYOBI One-Day Cup in a tournament format in October will provide a strong start to the cricket season. While this move is a more expensive option for CA, our Team Performance unit believes replicating a tournament style competition for One Day cricket is the best way of preparing our One Day cricketers for One Day Internationals and the World Cup in early 2015.”
“It is fantastic to have the Nine Network as our television broadcast partner for the RYOBI Cup. They have been long-time supporters of international cricket and it is great to see them now also supporting our premium domestic one-day competition.”
The decision is an interesting one by Cricket Australia and must have been a compromise for the governing body to ensure the domestic tournament continued to receive TV coverage (it seemed unlikely Fox Sports would continue to carry the domestic one-day competition after losing Big Bash rights to Ten). The downside to the new tournament structure is that by playing all matches in Sydney, matches not involving New South Wales are likely to struggle for crowds.
Although it is great to bring more domestic cricket to suburban grounds and away from international cricket venues, where small crowds make for a sad sight on TV, the new tournament structure means that youngsters will no longer be able to spend a summer day or night at a domestic one-day game in their capital city (unless they live in Sydney). To counter this the tournament is back on free-to-air TV and this is great news for those wanting to watch Australia’s next big stars hone their skills.
One cannot help think that the now out-of-summer, Sydney-based tournament will relegate one-day domestic cricket further down the pecking order, as domestic T20 cricket continues to dominate the domestic cricket scenes in not just Australia, but in cricketing nations worldwide. Lets hope this conclusion is incorrect and that the new tournament structure with national free-to-air coverage and a relatively quiet October sporting calendar sees domestic one-day cricket return to its former glory days. The Ryobi Cup will run from 29 September to 27 October.
At this stage there is no word on a broadcaster for the Sheffield Shield final.