Murdoch shadow behind ICC stand
There is unease over Zimbabwe and the Indian players. Both issues involve a potential breach of the contract with GCC and the last thing ICC wants is to give Murdoch?s company a chance to launch a legal action.Updated: Jan 28, 2003 23:58 IST
In a sport famous for its familiarity with initials, the letters GCC will mean little to most cricket fans. But those who run the world game know all about them.
They stand for the Global Cricket Corporation, a Rupert Murdoch-owned company that won the marketing rights for the World Cup. Making money from the deal is reported to have been harder than it seemed when they paid $550m for the rights in June 2000, at the peak of the sports TV market.
So concerned is the International Cricket Council that the GCC will seek to get out of the deal, or at least cut their losses through legal action, that delivering the tournament it promised has become paramount. These fears have influenced ICC’s every step during a winter strewn with crises, from India’s dispute over player sponsorship to English reluctance to travel to Zimbabwe.
If this $550m deal goes wrong, all the cricket world will feel the effects for years.
When GCC struck the deal for the 2003 and 2007 tournaments it seemed to guarantee cricket’s financial health and offer GCC a chance of a healthy profit from the sale of broadcast rights and sponsorship. Domestic broadcasters looked willing to pay handsomely for the right to screen matches.
But according to a report in next month’s Sports Business International magazine, the collapse of the rights market, manifested in the UK by the demise of ITV Digital, has left GCC well short of its target.
The magazine estimates that only $400m has been raised after broadcasters came up with much less cash than they initially suggested. BSkyB is thought to have informally pledged $100m only to end up paying closer to $10m.
This explains the unease within the ICC’s Lord’s headquarters over Zimbabwe and the Indian players. Both issues involve a potential breach of the contracts signed between the ICC and GCC, and the last thing the ICC wants is to give Murdoch’s company a chance to launch a legal action.
Hence in part the ICC’s unequivocal support for Zimbabwe as a World Cup host.
When Tim Lamb, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, stresses the potentially ruinous size of the compensation bill the board could face if it pulls out of Zimbabwe it is GCC, not the ICC, he fears.
Similar concerns have driven the ICC to an extraordinary compromise deal with the Indian board.
Under the GCC agreement four main sponsors — LG Electronics, South African Airways, Hero Honda and Pepsi — have exclusive sponsorship rights to the tournament. To protect that investment the ICC’s constituent boards agreed that players would not sign individual agreements with the sponsors’ direct competitors.
This was most problematic in India, where players earn the bulk of their income from endorsements and appear in around 25 per cent of all advertising. Sachin Tendulkar, among others, has a deal with TVS, competing with Hero Honda. Virender Sehwag has a deal with Coca Cola. Samsung, LG Electronic’s main local competitor, has struck personal endorsement deals with seven of India’s 15-member World Cup squad. All the players are understandably reluctant to give up these deals.
The Indian board backed the players and forced the ICC to offer them unique terms.
In exchange, the ICC will place India’s $9m share of the World Cup pot in trust pending compensation claims and possible legal action.
It has also threatened to suspend India, though ICC tournaments shorn of the biggest draw in cricket — 80 per cent of the world game’s revenue is generated there — would be even less attractive to the News Corp accountants.
GCC, its chief executive Ian Fryckberg and the parent company News Corp declined to comment.
First Published: Jan 28, 2003 23:58 IST