There’s more posturing in the sports rights battles between Seven and Nine for cricket, rugby league and the AFL. Cricket has been locked up simply by Nine making its very good friends at Cricket Australia an offer they couldn’t refuse, adding a few bells and whistles for viewers that will also help Nine make more money.

After chatting up Cricket Australia, Nine CEO Dave Gyngell went to Strop Cornell’s pub in Byron Bay where he wined and dined Cricket Australia’s James Sutherland and the NRL’s David Gallop. Cornell was also reported to be present. He and Austin Robertson (a former player manager) were two of the driving forces behind the creation of World Series Cricket for Kerry Packer, along with Lynton Taylor, who has returned to Nine to help as a sports rights consultant.

But the Sydney Sunday papers now report that Gallop is off to see Seven Network boss Kerry Stokes this week for a chat. That’s a bit of a touch-up and designed to distance himself from the Packer-Nine camp. Gallop has often been lumped into a group of movers and shakers seen around the Coogee and Clovelly hotels in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs where many heavy hitters from Easts – like David Gyngell, Phil Gould and the main man at Easts, Nick Politis – hang out.

Gallop has to maintain his distance in all ways because the half owner of the NRL, News Ltd, is pushing for Nine and PBL to pay a lot more than is currently paid. Some say the amount will be doubled to over $40 million a year. I reckon Nine will get the League because the Packers are too closely associated with it, and particularly Easts in Sydney, and any loss would be a miserable loss of face. And if Seven were to secure the rights it could easily become something of a poisoned chalice, with all the Packer mates banding together to undermine the contract.

Peter Fray

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