Hunter at the Crikey sports desk writes:

Dressed neatly in their regulation suits
and ties, members of the Australian cricket team yesterday attended Channel Nine’s
launch of this year’s Ashes series. The boys stood around, glasses of water in
hand, preparing to become the game’s new stars. You could be forgiven for
thinking they were already the main attraction. Now it appears Cricket
Australia are eager for the public to get to know the national team on a more,
well, personal basis.

“We spoke with Channel Nine last year about
our concerns that the public see the players running around out there but don’t
really get to know who they are as people,” Cricket Australia spokesman Peter
Young told Crikey this morning. “We don’t believe we’re connecting as other
sports do on that front.”

According to Young, Channel Nine and ABC Radio took those
concerns on board and came up with some ideas, greater access to players
underpinning most of them. But the question needs to be asked: if Channel Nine holds
all the cards, where does this leave the other television networks, the print
media, and radio, especially regarding Ricky Ponting’s new contract with
Nine? Is he not jointly owned by all Australians, rather than the exclusive
property of one network?

Yes and no. Young says he personally signed
off on Ponting’s new contract with Nine, which certainly guarantees Nine a
decent chunk of Ricky’s time, but also protects the right of competitors to
speak with the Australian captain.

“No player contract with media is ever
undertaken on an exclusive basis,” Young said. “The contract stipulates they
must remain available to do other media work as reasonably required by Cricket
Australia. In Ricky’s case, Channel Nine has a specific deal with him, but he
will also do the work we require of him as well.”

If, by summer, Channel Nine’s ratings are
still heading south, and with the prospect of an AFL-less winter on the
horizon, it will be interesting to watch just how much quality time the
Australian captain, now a Nine employee, gets with that network’s rivals. That,
and finding out what Adam Gilchrist’s favourite colour is.

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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