BBL draft shake up looms, WBBL expected to go shorter

Scott Bailey |

Changes are afoot for the Big Bash League as the Brisbane Heat look to defend their title in 2025.
Changes are afoot for the Big Bash League as the Brisbane Heat look to defend their title in 2025.

Cricket Australia is set to allow Big Bash clubs to sign overseas talent to multi-year deals before the draft, in a bid to stop players leaving the competition before finals.

In a significant shake up, clubs will be able to agree a pre-draft multi-year offer with one overseas player.

That deal will include a requirement for the player to make themself available for the entire tournament, and prevent them leaving to compete in other leagues.

AAP has been told the changes are expected to be approved in the coming weeks, while a decision to cut the Women’s Big Bash League from 56 games to 40 appears increasingly likely.

The changes will impact the men’s and women’s leagues, and came about after a mass exodus late in the most recent BBL competition.

Under the new rules, clubs will be able to offer a multi-year deal to an overseas player well before the draft date.

The signed player will count towards the minimum of three internationals that must be selected by a club during the draft, taking up either a platinum, gold or silver-round pick depending on their salary.

Sam Billings bats for the Brisbane Heat.
The Heat’s English star Sam Billings (right) was among those calling for multi-year player deals. (Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS)

There will be no restrictions on who the player is, making it possible for clubs to poach another franchise’s overseas talent.

Signed players will be given some flexibility next summer if they already have contracts elsewhere, but will be locked in for the duration of seasons from 2025-26 on.

In good news for the BBL, it is believed the UAE-based ILT20 competition is to move from the January-February window to November.

If that was the case, it would alleviate significant pressure on the Australian competition, given ILT20 teams are able to sign up to nine overseas players and have regularly raided BBL stocks. 

That would leave South Africa’s T20 tournament as the only franchise league up against the BBL.

Brisbane Heat’s English star Sam Billings last summer called for multi-year deals to give overseas players more certainty.

Adelaide Strikers, winners of the 2023 WBBL.
The WBBL, won last season by the Adelaide Strikers, looks certain to move to a 10-round competition. (Matt Turner/AAP PHOTOS)

AAP has been told the women’s competition looks almost certain to move to a 10-round season in a similar format to the men’s.

The timing of this year’s women’s T20 World Cup in Bangladesh means the competition would risk beginning without international talent if it persisted with the longer season.

Long-term, there is a belief a 40-game regular season would create a better schedule and context for matches, while not reducing the number of games on free-to-air TV.

For that to happen, officials must decide how to replace the missing games, with Cricket Australia and the players keen to maintain the current amount of women’s matches.

One option remains a state-based T20 league, while an extended warm-up series for teams in WBBL colours is another.

A state-based competition could result in a financial gain for players, who earn match fees playing state cricket as opposed to a salary in the WBBL.