The floodgates have really opened on
Steve Vizard as more information pours in from the top end of town
about his disgraceful behaviour while sitting on the Telstra board,
courtesy of his mate and now High Commissioner in London Richard Alston.

We’ve
told you about his incredible Sportsview deals with Eddie McGuire and
four AFL clubs. But what about his role on the MCC Committee, which has
long had an adversarial relationship with the AFL.

In mid 2000,
the MCC committee and MCG Trust pulled quite a stunt and declared that
they owned the broadcast rights to all events held at the MCG and were
negotiating directly with the Packer interests.

Consider the
position of Steve Vizard. Telstra was negotiating to take the entire
AFL rights as a package, and Vizard was refusing to absent himself from
the boardroom when this was discussed. Wearing another hat, Vizard was
working with the MCC committee to undercut the AFL and do a deal with
Kerry Packer.

It was an appalling series of conflicts, and the
Telstra executive handling negotiations, John Rolland, was outraged at
the time. Complaints are said to have deluged the Telstra board room
around the middle of 2000 and Vizard was out of there within three
months. This Patrick Smith column in The Australian from 29 June 2000 captures the absurdity of the situation:

The MCG legal action is based on the same grounds as Carlton’s but the
MCG represents not one club but as many as five – Richmond,
Collingwood, Hawthorn, Melbourne and the Kangaroos.

The
AFL has said this week that it is prepared to continue TV negotiations
despite the likelihood of a long and protracted dispute with the MCG
parties. It will sell the rights conditional on a satisfactory outcome
to the MCG dispute. If the matter goes to court and the AFL loses, then
the AFL will agree to discount the TV fees heavily. Football from Perth
to Brisbane would hurt then. But it would allow a Kerry Packer
initiative to broadcast games out of the MCG, perfectly servicing
Nine’s need for a small AFL presence.

The AFL has named its
negotiating team with the MCC and it includes Graeme Samuel, the
commissioner that the MCC so dearly did not want to confront over the
table. The MCC team will be headed by Stephen Gough, the MCC chief
executive, and members from both the MCC and the MCG Trust.

It
appears the MCG parties are in no hurry to meet, while AFL chairman Ron
Evans and chief executive Wayne Jackson are now banging on the door
wanting dialogue. Clearly, the MCG dispute is hurting the TV rights
deal and the MCG is enjoying the AFL’s discomfort.

Critical to
the TV deal are the Internet rights. Carlton will pack up their
briefcases and leave the courts if the overall TV rights deal agrees
for the free-to-air broadcaster to supply footage for club Internet
sites. It must not necessarily be exclusive coverage but it most
definitely must be royalty-free.

The AFL is seeking to sell its
TV rights in a bundle and a likely consortium to buy them would be
Telstra, Channel Seven and Sportsview, the internet company run by
Steve Vizard. Telstra would on-sell the pay-TV to be shown live against
the gate, Channel Seven would have all of the free-to-air and Vizard
the Internet. To protect its product from direct competition for the
Internet, Seven may offer to buy out Sportsview and thereby be able to
ensure the Internet does compete directly with free-to-air.

Steve Vizard must have had a very big hat stand at the time.

Peter Fray

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