It may be close to the pinnacle of the
Melbourne establishment, but the Melbourne Cricket Club has been more
than a little tardy in distancing itself from Steve Vizard. When ASIC
unveiled its deal with Vizard on 4 July, the state government quickly
announced that he had quit his role as chairman of Melbourne Major
Events and also his position with the 2007 World Swimming Championships.

Listed
IT company Oakton also announced a management restructure the previous
Friday which included Vizard’s resignation, although there was no
effusive appreciation of his efforts.

The Herald Sun produced this story
on 6 July claiming that Vizard was still a member of the MCC committee
but was rumoured to be poised to quit. Crikey contacted the MCC spin
doctors on the back of this report but in three email exchanges it was
never mentioned that he had actually done the deed. Maybe the spinner
didn’t know himself.

The Age presumably approached the
MCC after yesterday’s Crikey Daily calling for his sacking and, lo and
behold, chairman David Jones decided to reveal that he had resigned
three weeks ago as you can see here.

The
news apparently spread like wildfire around the first dinner at the new
MCC dining room on 16 June so the first committee meeting without
Vizard took place on 21 June.

Finally, take a look at this exchange from a John Lyons Sunday program cover story in August 2000, the same month that Sportsview landed the MCC and MCG contracts:

JOHN
LYONS: On top of the Docklands debacle comes another blunder. The AFL
missed the internet boat. It’s a mistake that could cost the AFL tens
of millions of dollars.

STEVE PRICE: I don’t think they’ve ever
quite understood the internet’s place in their media package, they’re
negotiating their media rights at the moment, it’s the one thing that
completely has them focused, they’ve got to sell free-to-air, they’ve
got to sell pay TV and I think they just were a bit slack on internet
and they let it slip them by… they’ve just let this other crowd
come in underneath them and that will cost them dearly in the end I
think.

JOHN LYONS: That “Other crowd” was entrepreneur Steve
Vizard and the Nine Network’s television host Eddie McGuire. Most
remarkable about the AFL’s blunder on the internet is that they were
invited to be part of the deal at the start. But said no. Into this
vacuum swooped Vizard and McGuire, who now stand to make millions of
dollars from their company Sportsview.

STEVE VIZARD: Each club
normally sells its own merchandising. They sell tickets, they sell
season tickets, they sell passes they do these things but they don’t
use new technology to do it. Most of the clubs had internet sites but
they had players listed that were like a year old and they didn’t
change particularly well. And we saw a real opportunity to make these
dynamic, up to date live so that they’ve got yesterday results, they’ve
got all of the club information the gossip the behind the scenes stuff,
make them really living. And therefore gain revenue for the clubs and
the supporters. Put the supporters in touch with the clubs directly.

JOHN
LYONS: What is astounding is that Vizard actually approached the AFL,
Wayne Jackson and Graeme Samuel, and offered them the chance to be part
of any deal. They not only said no thanks, but wished him well before
he went away and signed up a breakaway group of six clubs with which
now the AFL will have to wrestle.

STEVE VIZARD: They were
terrifically encouraging at the meeting and enthusiastic meetings and
they recognised there was potential in the internet for the clubs. It
was something that they particularly didn’t want to get involved in but
they absolutely thought it was right for the clubs to pursue the sort
of arrangements in pursuit of new technology and better relationships
with the supporters that we were proposing.

JOHN LYONS: Key
figures today privately shake their heads in disbelief that the AFL
missed this early deal. The AFL now cannot sell any exclusive internet
package without either granting Sportsview equity or buying them out,
which could cost tens of millions. The deal delivers 65% of all club
revenues to Sportsview and establishes facilities so people can gamble
on football games. Now Steve Vizard and Eddie McGuire have guaranteed
seats on the internet boat.

JOHN LYONS: Did the AFL miss the internet boat when it was going out?

EDDIE
MCGUIRE: Possibly, possibly missed the jump on this one. I think there
was an opportunity that has come and gone but now we have to make sure
the next opportunity that comes and there will be one, it’s probably
there now, that is done the right way and that there’s no
recriminations and that people who come up with good ideas shouldn’t be
punished because they were the first with the idea.

JOHN
LYONS: Did you and Graeme Samuel blunder by sending away Steve Vizard
who then went and stitched up four now six of the clubs?

WAYNE JACKSON: You’ll have to be more specific with that question.

JOHN
LYONS: Is it correct that Steve Vizard approached you and Graeme Samuel
and said “I think we should do something with clubs’ internet sites and
I’ll do the deal for you?”

WAYNE JACKSON: We are talking and
have talked in the past 12 months to a whole host of people, one of
whom very publicly is Sportsview. Sportsview has the same opportunity
to work with the AFL as any other company that we’ve dealt with. Only
time will tell whether the clubs will be better off dealing with the
way the AFL ultimately arranges its business which may or may not be
with Sportsview and I have no comment on that. Time will be the
judgment as to whether we’ve made the mistake or not.

CRIKEY: So
when the media should have been up in arms about the ridiculous
conflicts of interests of Eddie McGuire and Steve Vizard, John Lyons
was bagging the AFL for not getting into bed with their fly-by-night
scheme.

Peter Fray

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