Fan feedback leads to BBL fixture change
BBL|09 regular season to be almost two weeks shorter than last summer, featuring 56 matches in six weeks and culminating on a bumper January long weekend
24 July 2019, 07:00 PM AEST
Cricket Australia has reduced the length of the KFC BBL regular season by more than a quarter following feedback from fans, broadcasters and players that last summer's tournament was too long.
The ninth edition of the Big Bash League will see 56 regular season games played in just 42 days, down from 54 days last summer, with all but a handful of those 56 matches to be played during the school holiday period.
The six-week regular season will run from December 17 to January 27 - almost two weeks shorter than last summer - and be followed by a revamped finals series, the details of which will be announced on Thursday along with the full tournament fixture.
The regular season will culminate with seven matches in four days over the January long weekend, with all eight teams to play at least once, including the return of big-time cricket to Adelaide Oval on January 26.
The late rush of games could mean the teams who qualify for the finals won’t be decided until that long weekend, with hopes it will provide a dramatic climax to the regular season.
A 42-day regular season is just two days longer than the regular season two summers ago, which was the last before the tournament was expanded to a full home-and-away competition.
Alistair Dobson, CA's new Head of the BBL, said the response to a shorter season from fans, players, clubs and broadcasters has been overwhelmingly positive.
"No one that we had in through this process has had any objection to the shorter season," he said.
"It was overwhelming feedback primarily from fans, but players wanted to play more cricket in a shorter period and all our key stakeholders were on board with that."
Dobson said ensuring the vast majority of regular season games were played during the school holidays, making them more accessible to families, was a major focus of the new-look fixture.
The absence of men’s international white-ball cricket in Australia this January has helped CA condense the season; in previous years, the BBL has taken a night off on days when Australia's men's team has played. But in a major change to the international schedule this season, Australia's men's team will play a three-game ODI series in India on January 14-19, meaning the BBL will take centre stage in Australia at the height of summer.
Following their India tour, Australia's leading players could then return for the latter stages of the BBL season and the finals before they head to South Africa in mid-February.
The expanded competition in 2018-19 saw a jump from 40 matches to 56, which meant the length of the regular season increased by two weeks and finished on February 10, a week after school went back.
More matches and a push into regional centres were factors behind a fall in average attendances last season, while television ratings were also down 10 per cent in line with broadcast trends around the country.
During the tournament, some players and coaches questioned both the number of games played and the length of the expanded competition.
"I think the season is probably a bit too long," Melbourne Stars bowler Jackson Bird said in January. "It's been dragging out a bit in the last couple of weeks.
"The players love playing in the Big Bash but we could probably condense the season into a shorter block.”
Some clubs faced a gap of up to 10 days between matches last summer, which players and clubs felt hurt their momentum at key stages of the tournament.
It's yet to be seen if the shorter season will help clubs attract big-name international players, with franchises expected to ramp up their approaches to overseas talent now that the fixture has been finalised.
Franchises are able to sign up to six overseas players this season, an increase from four last summer, although only two are allowed to play in any given match.