Big Bash introduces multi-year deals to aid overseas availability

Big Bash clubs will be able to sign international talent to multi-year deals in a bid to keep overseas players in the tournament for longer

The Big Bash League will allow overseas stars to bypass the draft and sign multi-year deals with clubs as part of another tweak to player contracting ahead of Weber WBBL|10 and KFC BBL|14.

Cricket Australia today announced each club will be permitted to sign one overseas player to a maximum three-year deal in both the men's and women's competitions, allowing them to skip the lottery of the draft and negotiate directly with the team of their choice.

The caveat is that from WBBL|11 and BBL|15 onwards, they are required to be available for the entire season including finals, which is designed in part to help reduce the loss of international players to rival T20 leagues in the second half of the men's Big Bash season.

The women's global T20 calendar is also becoming increasingly crowded with India's Women's Premier League, England's Hundred, as well as competitions in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe established since 2020.

"We have worked closely with clubs and the ACA (Australian Cricketers' Association) 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," said Alistair Dobson, CA's general manager of Big Bash Leagues.

"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."

In the past two BBL seasons – since the inception of South Africa's new franchise league (beginning in early January) and the UAE’s International League T20 competition (beginning in mid-January) – Big Bash clubs have found it increasingly difficult to keep overseas talent for the entire season despite the introduction of a new draft system prior to BBL|12.

That includes last season's champions Brisbane Heat who lost both stand-in captain Colin Munro and wicketkeeper Sam Billings to the UAE competition before the finals, with Paul Walter their only remaining overseas player as they surged to the title under Nathan McSweeney.

Beaten finalists the Sydney Sixers also lost opener James Vince to the UAE, Adelaide Strikers – who were defeated by the Heat in the Challenger – lost Adam Hose and Jamie Overton, while Perth Scorchers saw crowd favourite Laurie Evans depart, meaning all four BBL|13 finalists were impacted during the crucial knockout phase of the season.

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While overseas players were required to communicate their availability prior to the draft, Chris Jordan, Corey Anderson (both Hobart Hurricanes), Alex Hales (Thunder) and Walter (Heat) were the only four drafted for BBL|13 that didn't depart before their club's campaign had finished.

Munro was one advocating for longer deals for overseas players as he departed to join Desert Vipers, while Evans said following his final match of BBL|13 that he felt more games could be squeezed into a shorter period.

"The 10 games is about right, but I definitely think we could shorten the start and end," he said.

"In England with The Hundred, they want it done inside a month and it's a brutal schedule but that's the game we're in.

"We've had a lot of downtime (between games) and I think that way you'll get the best players coming back without any clashes and get the finals done."

Next summer's Big Bash fixtures are expected to be released over the coming months, but it's not expected the duration of the men's tournament from beginning to end will change substantially from last season's 49 days.

The new multi-year signing rule comes into immediate effect, with the men's contracting embargo for BBL|14 lifted today.

Sam Billings and Alex Hales are two players who could potentially cash in on a multi-year deal // Getty

In line with last year, the contracting period starts with a retention and trade week (new for this season), giving clubs the opportunity to fill up to 10 of their 15 list spots allocated for domestic players.

Another addition this season will allow clubs to sign any player holding a CA contract during the retention week outside of the 10 available spots, even if they have not previously played for their team.

The full contracting period for all free agents will commence following the retention week on Tuesday, April 9, which also includes the opportunity to sign one international player.

The WBBL|10 contracting window is set to open in the coming weeks after the length of the new season is finalised, with league officials understood to be in discussions about reducing the women's tournament after the men's competition moved to a 10-match home-and-away fixture for each club last season.

The new multi-year contract option replaces the direct nomination rule that was in place during last season's inaugural WBBL draft that resulted in all clubs except Sydney Thunder passing one of their three picks, with only 17 players in total selected in the women's draft.

Clubs can pre-sign overseas players on one-, two- or three-year deals at one of the existing draft salary bands (Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze) or at a negotiated price above the Platinum rate, which was $420,000 per season for men's players in BBL|13 or $110,000 for women in WBBL|09.

Draft salary bands

Band WBBL|09 BBL|13
Platinum $110k $420k
Gold $90k $300k
Silver $65k $200k
Bronze $40k $100k

Clubs will still be required to draft a minimum of two overseas players each season regardless of whether they have pre-signed a player or not.

Retention rules also do not apply as the direct signing takes place outside of the draft, which gives rival clubs the opportunity to test the allegiance of stars such as Rashid Khan or Alex Hales with a more lucrative offer.