Federal Court directs Cricket Australia to deliver pre-discovery documents to Seven

Seven West Media (SWM) has welcomed an order from the Federal Court directing Cricket Australia to hand over pre-discovery documents agreed on by the two bodies as part of the network’s preliminary discovery action.

The documents pertain to a court case between the two, after Seven brought against Cricket Australia last December following COVID-19 enforced changes to the 2020/21 summer cricket season.

“Seven West Media welcomes the order of the Federal Court giving it pre-action discovery against Cricket Australia and will pursue discovery as ordered,” Seven said in a statement.

“SWM is committed to working under its contract with Cricket Australia to deliver a big 2020-21 summer of cricket for the fans and players.”

The Federal Court action began in December, 2020, after the network had voiced its displeasure on multiple occasions around the COVID-forced re-scheduling of the 2020/21 test series between Australia and India.

Conflict between Seven and CA began over scheduling of last summer’s India test series

Seven claimed that the summer cricket schedule was unfairly influenced by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BBCI), rather than solely shaped by the pandemic’s effect on live sports, giving the BCCI and Foxtel an advantage, and is seeking financial compensation for Test Match and Big Bash League (BBL) quality failures by Cricket Australia.

The original summer schedule was changed, pushing a three-match one day international (ODI) series to a late November start, followed by the Twenty20 series.

Seven was displeased that a four-day test series against India was delayed, and while limited-overs matches aired on Foxtel and Kayo; the first men’s international cricket on Seven wasn’t until 17 December.

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.

Most recently, Seven called into question the impartiality of Justin Jameson, the chief executive of Venture Consulting, who had been appointed to arbitrate the case. Shortly after that, Seven was awarded $5.3 million as a result of the financial impact of changes to the 2020-21 season, to be deducted from its next scheduled rights fee payment.

On the latest ruling by the Federal Court, Cricket Australia said: “Cricket Australia respects today’s decision for Cricket Australia to work with Seven West Media to agree what access to documentation should be provided in relation to the successful 2020-21 season, which was delivered in full and captivated fans around the world.

“The 2020-21 season will be remembered for the spirit of cooperation, overcoming challenges and a sensational summer of cricket. We are extremely proud of how the Australian Cricket family and its partners worked together to make the season so special.

“There is a huge amount of work going on with all of our partners, including SWM, to make the upcoming summer of cricket one of the biggest yet, headlined by the men’s and women’s Ashes series.”

In Seven’s recent annual report, Warburton’s tone appeared to have shifted on the matter, when he declared the relationship between the broadcaster and Cricket Australia “is improving”.

He said: “We are spoilt for sport this year with not just the AFL, Supercars and Olympics, but an exciting horse racing line-up and the Ashes Test series. While we had a disagreement with Cricket Australia during 2020–21, this relationship is improving.

“We are working with them to improve the Big Bash and we are very much looking forward to this summer’s Ashes Test series.”

The forthcoming 2021-22 home summer of cricket will be headlined by Ashes series against England for both Australia’s men and women, plus men’s one day internationals and T20 matches against New Zealand.

The Australian men’s team is also scheduled to host Afghanistan for a test for the first time. Meanwhile, the women will line up against India in a test at the start of the summer.


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