Damned, dirty money

There are good ways and bad ways of making money, clean ways and dirty ways. Mostly, we hope, the good guys can spot the difference and plot a decent way forward. Sometimes, even the good guys are forced to compromise, however, but sometimes they are just greedy.

One of the more boring stories (for most sports followers) in recent weeks has concerned Cricket Australia’s conflict with international news agencies concerning their right to cover international series. Yep, ‘boring!’ Yawn. But wait. Just give me two more paragraphs before you log off.

International news agencies provide the majority of sports coverage we read in our newspapers and hear on our radios and see on our televisions, especially when we are following sports in a different country. The Star, The Mercury and The Cape Times, for example, do not have reporters working on the English Premier League.

Those newspapers, along with radio stations, pay a monthly retainer to agencies like Reuters, Agence France Presse (AFP) and Associated Press (AP) to be able to inform their readers and listeners about what has transpired each weekend.

But Cricket Australia has now decided that such is the value of their product, everybody must pay them directly. Uhh? Is Australian cricket really that good? Can we really not live from day to day without paying them?

And if they continue to lock out the agencies which have been around for close to a century, will they really be able to control the flow of information out of press conferences concerning the game? I doubt it. All international agencies were barred from the post-match interviews following Australia’s second-Test thumping of New Zealand in Adelaide on Monday, but how hard can it be to publicise what Ricky Ponting had to say about the imminent series against South Africa?

This hard:
“We know we are going to have to play at our absolute best if we want to win the series against South Africa,” Ponting said.
“We know the South Africans are a well-balanced side. They have got a really good fast bowling attack and there are four or five of their batsmen in the top-10 run scorers of 2008.
”They are a good side. We are not kidding ourselves – we have a long way to go yet if we want to stay the number one team in the world.”

Hmm, that didn’t take much effort. Perhaps Cricket Australia will sue us for not paying a rights fee, or having official accreditation for being there. The trouble is, we have friends who were there, with official accreditation. Have they broken the rules by chatting to me, unofficially? Have we broken some secret service rules by writing what they told us?

Ponting, by all accounts, was struggling to find decent ammunition for the phoney war. This was his best shot:
“It’s an attack that hasn’t played in Australia though, that’s the other thing.” The problem for Ponting, and Cricket Australia, is that his comments may have been taken out of context. That’s the problem with not being there.

Sadly, there are few conclusions to be drawn from CA’s behaviour other than the fact that brutal greed has taken a life-threatening grip over reason, or even the acceptable approach of ‘revenue maximisation.’

Graeme Smith’s Proteas have an extra week to calmly prepare themselves for the Australia tour, a week the majority of them never expected to have. The cancellation of the inaugural Champions Trophy in India has come as a blessed relief, though they cannot say that. There is a feeling within some South African cricket circles that selfishness and greed contributed, at least partly and perhaps subliminally, to the appalling tragedies in Mumbai.

What a pleasant thought it would be to imagine Cricket Australia once again appreciating the effort, dedication and commitment it takes from agency reporters to spread the gospel of their great team to over 200 countries worldwide. Heaven help them if they weren’t the world’s number one any more. How would they tempt the agencies back? Kick them out when you’re the best? Beg them back when you’re struggling?

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