Australia news – BBL introduces multi-year deals for overseas players to shore up availability

Cricket Australia has introduced the option of clubs signing one overseas player in the BBL and WBBL on a multi-year deal outside of the drafts, in an attempt to ward off the mass exodus of players to other leagues that has hit the men’s competition, but the player must be available for the entire tournament including finals after next season.

The multi-year deals can be signed before the W/BBL drafts but clubs will still need to draft at least two more. However, in an intriguing twist, players who sign a contract before the draft, be it single year or up to three years, cannot be retained by their former club. It raises the prospect of a player like Rashid Khan being poached away from Adelaide Strikers after Melbourne Stars attempted to draft him at the last two overseas drafts only for Strikers to use their retention pick.

Strikers would not have rights to Rashid at the draft if any other club signed him under the new contracting rules. If Rashid or another player who qualifies for a retention pick is not signed before the draft, they can be retained as per the previous rules.

The new multi-year contracts can be negotiated at any price meaning in the BBL players can command a figure above the current overseas draft platinum contract of AUD$420,000. However, the club will still need to fit all 18 players in their squad under the AUD$3 million salary cap. In the WBBL the platinum level is AUD$110,000.

Overseas players will be allowed to limit their playing availability for the upcoming season due to pre-existing contracts with other leagues but for the following W/BBL seasons starting in 2025-26, any player who signs a deal outside of the draft will have to be available to play the full season plus the finals.

“We are excited to introduce this new contracting mechanism for the upcoming WBBL and BBL seasons,” BBL general manager Alistair Dobson said. “We have worked closely with clubs and the ACA to continue developing and enhancing the Big Bash, and a key focus has been ensuring the best players continue to compete in the Big Bash, and for longer periods.

“The opportunity for international players to ink multi-year deals with teams not only strengthens the League’s global appeal but also provides clubs with greater stability and strategic planning capabilities.”

January’s T20 crunch

The move has been made to avoid the situation the BBL suffered in recent seasons after an exodus of overseas players to the ILT20 and the SA20 saw clubs severely affected heading into the finals. The overseas players themselves blamed the fact that the September draft meant they had no certainty over their own schedule and many of them had signed guaranteed deals with ILT20 and SA20 clubs well before being drafted to the BBL.

The decision from the BBL to allow multi-year contracts with the caveat of availability does partly mitigate against those exits from 2025 onwards although clubs can only sign one player to that deal. They must still draft two more at the draft later in the year, which does leave the BBL vulnerable to those players leaving the tournament early due to existing deals in other leagues.

It is understood there are BBL clubs who would prefer to contract players for all three overseas slots without a draft, as was the case previously, but the competition has invested heavily in the draft and believes the jeopardy of it adds value to the competition.

It will be interesting to see how many overseas players are lured via multi-year deals which will lock them into playing in the BBL. The scheduling of the BBL, ILT20, SA20 and the BPL in the same January window has incentivised players to hop from one league to another to maximise their earnings causing chaotic player movement across the four leagues.

Whether the new type of contract, which does get taxed heavily in Australia, will be enough to keep players in the BBL for a full season compared to the money on offer in the UAE and South Africa remains to be seen.

In the WBBL the new contract structure will replace the direct nomination route which was in place for the 2023-24 season, the first time the competition had used an overseas draft. That system meant only 17 players were signed at the draft itself.

BBL contract window opens

CA announced their new contracting mechanism on Tuesday as the BBL’s official contracting window opened. Clubs can officially trade and sign players in the coming weeks. The BBL only allows clubs to retain 10 players on their 18-player list each season to try and promote player movement.

There is an added element to their contracting this season with Australia’s Test players set to be available for a short window at the back end of the BBL. The competition dates are yet to be announced but it is likely to start just after the Adelaide Test between Australia and India, which finishes on December 10, and run through until roughly January 26.

In another new element clubs are also able to sign any player holding a CA contract during the initial retention week, even if they have not previously played for the team.

Australia’s Test players will finish their five-Test series against India on January 7 but the two-Test tour of Sri Lanka is due to start around January 31. Players involved in that are likely to only be available for the BBL until around January 20, which means those who make themselves available will only play a handful of matches and won’t be available for the finals.

Meanwhile, the WBBL schedule is still to be determined with a reduction to a 10-game season, in line with the BBL, still on the cards. There is only a limited window available for the WBBL this season between the end of the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh in late October and the start of a three-match women’s ODI series between Australia and India on December 5.

Alex Malcolm is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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