Afghan test cancellation could trigger $3m rights discount for Seven

Cricket Australia has flagged that the forthcoming cricket test between Australia and Afghanistan, to be played in Hobart on 27 November, is likely to be cancelled.

The news comes after several government ministers expressed concern over the match, following confirmation from the Taliban, now in power, that it will ban women from playing sport.

The Afghanistan Cricket Team / Twitter

Earlier this week, Australian Government ministers began to express concern over the test going ahead. Federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck told the ABC that athletes from Afghanistan would “remain welcome in Australia, but not under the flag of the Taliban”.

“Excluding women from sport at any level is unacceptable. At the end of the day, international cricket is controlled by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and it’s not just about this test match. The ICC is going to have to make a decision about Afghanistan’s membership,” the minister said.

If the test is cancelled, there could be implications for the ongoing legal dispute between Seven West Media and Cricket Australia.

In March, the expert appointed to mediate the rights dispute decided that the financial impact of changes to the 2020-21 cricket season was worth $5.3 million.

At that time, it was also determined that if the scheduled test against Afghanistan, which was originally to take place last summer, did not go ahead in the 2021-22 season, that a further $3 million should be deducted from the next rights fee payment.

Cricket Australia didn’t respond to Mumbrella’s question as to whether cancelling the test would trigger the payment, but instead released a statement.

“Driving the growth of women’s cricket globally is incredibly important to Cricket Australia. Our vision for cricket is that it is a sport for all and we support the game unequivocally for women at every level.

“If recent media reports that women’s cricket will not be supported in Afghanistan are substantiated, Cricket Australia would have no alternative but to not host Afghanistan for the proposed Test Match due to be played in Hobart.

“We thank the Australian and Tasmanian Governments for their support on this important issue.”

Seven has not responded to Mumbrella’s request for comment either.

Foxtel and Seven first partnered in 2018 on a six-year deal with Cricket Australia worth $1.18 billion, with Seven contributing around $82 million annually as part of the agreement.

But in August last year, Seven’s CEO James Warburton began voicing frustration around Cricket Australia’s handling of the sport in light of travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic. At that time, Warburton called CA “a bumbling, stumbling administration”.

In September, Seven took the first steps to exit from the remainder of the broadcast deal (at that time with $450 million outstanding and four years left), issuing Cricket Australia with a legal letter advising of its intention to exit the agreement over an alleged breach of contract.

Last month, the Federal Court directed Cricket Australia to hand over pre-discovery documents agreed on by the two bodies as part of the network’s preliminary discovery action.


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