Channel Seven accused of making ‘Trump-like’ claims in dispute with Cricket Australia

Cricket Tasmania chairman Andrew Gaggin has dismissed Channel Seven’s “Trump-like allegations” as “patently absurd and untrue”, while Test skipper Tim Paine has leapt to the defence of his home ground.

The bitter spat between Cricket Australia and its free-to-air broadcaster Seven has dramatically escalated, with the latter’s head of sport Lewis Martin lodging a sworn affidavit in the Federal Court.

Seven, embroiled in a dispute regarding its six-year contract with CA that is worth $450m, has aired several grievances in the document. The affidavit foreshadows that Seven may seek “many millions of dollars” because of a hit to its advertising revenue, features a request for CA documents, and references everything from TV show The Block to the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

The broadcaster also attacked CA’s decision to start the Big Bash League in Tasmania, which is hosting the tournament opener on 10 December, then putting on a further seven games in 10 days.

The affidavit claims scheduling that run of BBL games at “two relatively small and unheralded stadia … would be commercially irrational unless CA were otherwise incentivised, presumably by arrangement with the government of Tasmania, to do so”.

Tasmania premier Peter Gutwein has denied there were any incentive payments made, while Gaggin on Wednesday struggled to hide his indignation.

“The Trump-like allegations concerning the Tasmanian state government are patently absurd and untrue,” Gaggin said in a statement. “Let it be clear that no financial incentive was provided by the Tasmanian government to Cricket Australia for BBL matches to be played in Tasmania.”

Tasmania’s glut of BBL games comes after they missed out on a single international match in 2020-21.

Martin wrote in the affidavit that he made it clear to BBL boss Alistair Dobson that “for logistical and broadcast reasons Tasmania is the least preferred location for BBL broadcasting”.

“For reasons including the quality of the stadia (in Hobart and Launceston) and the consequent levels of attendance and audience,” he wrote.

Paine, who was on Seven’s books as a BBL commentator during the previous summer but will play for Hobart this season, said “it’s slightly disappointing to hear” Martin’s words.

“I know how good the facility is,” the Test skipper told ABC Radio. “I know how much work has been put in, both from Cricket Tasmania staff and the Tasmanian government, to help Cricket Australia and Channel Seven out to make sure we can get the Big Bash away.”

Paine added that players around the country love the ground in Hobart. “In particular for Twenty20 cricket,” the wicketkeeper said. “The pitch and outfield make for very exciting and high-scoring Twenty20, which I’d imagine that’s what the TV broadcasters want.”