The launch of World Series Cricket
The summer holidays mean one thing for many Australians: cricket. Heading to a day-night match and watching the brightly coloured teams smacking the ball into the crowd is what we've come to expect. But, it wasn't always like this and Allens played a big part in transforming the game of cricket into what it is today.
When colour television arrived in Australia in 1975, the small screen came alive. At that time, TCN-9 (Channel Nine) was led by Kerry Packer. Inspired by sports broadcasts in the United States, Packer saw the potential for broadcasting cricket on colour television. In 1976 he approached the Australian Cricket Board with an offer to televise the 1977–1978 cricket season, famously using the line, 'There is a little bit of the whore in all of us, gentlemen. What is your price?' Despite offering $1.5 million – seven times the value of the existing contract with the Australian Broadcasting Commission – the Cricket Board rejected his offer.
Packer was incensed and decided that if the Australian Cricket Board wouldn't let him play he would beat them at their own game. In the 1970s, tennis and golf players were generously rewarded for their efforts, while most cricketers earned barely enough to live on. It did not take much for Packer to convince the best players to join his teams. In secret, Packer signed up players from around the globe and established his own cricket competition – World Series Cricket, dividing the international cricketing community and upending the economics and culture of the game. Allens was kept busy finalising agreements with the players.
By the time World Series Cricket was launched, thirty-five leading international players had signed contracts. Allens assisted with the execution of the agreements and advised Packer during the legal battles that followed. The biggest of these took place in the High Court in London when the International Cricket Council tried to prevent World Series Cricket players from participating in first-class cricket matches. Justice Christopher Slade ruled in favour of Packer, holding that the International Cricket Council's ban amounted to an unreasonable restraint of trade. By imposing the ban, they had in essence induced players to breach their contract with World Series Cricket.
The new format of cricket was different to anything seen before. To make the most of colour TV the players were given brightly coloured uniforms and, for the first time, women were welcomed into the Members' Stand. It took a while to take off but when Packer made the bold decision to play cricket at night under high-intensity floodlights the stands were packed.
Packer had brought fresh colour and life to the game and, after just two seasons, the Australian Cricket Board gave Packer his much sought-after broadcasting rights and a contract to market and promote cricket in Australia. The changes he made, with Allens' help, are still evident in the game today.
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