Australia’s Indian Summer

The Australian cricket team is one of the most decorated in sporting history but the sport in the country, under the control of governing body Cricket Australia, still faces its fair share of financial challenges as chief executive James Sutherland explains.

6 September 2012 Michael Long
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For a man in charge of Cricket Australia, James Sutherland talks a lot about India. That he does so says everything about the country’s dominance of the game and more particularly the dramatically positive effect its national team has on media rights sales around the world. “An Indian tour is by far the most lucrative ‚ $#  /  his role as chief executive, is preparing to welcome India to Australia in December for a tour comprising four Tests and two Twenty20 matches. It is a tour that will offer both the opportunity for the Australian national team to continue their recovery following a painful 2010/11 Ashes series defeat to England and the funding required by Cricket Australia to run the sport at all levels. As the host governing body, Cricket Australia holds the worldwide media rights to the Test series with India. A domestic agreement with Nine Network, coupled with a pan-Asia broadcast rights deal with ESPN Star Sports that includes India, makes it a commercial goldmine; indeed, an India tour of Australia can generate as much as three-quarters of Cricket Australia’s revenues over the four-year cycle of events that the organisation works to. “Our revenues will peak,” says Sutherland, in London during September for the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) annual awards night and the inaugural World Cricket Business Forum. 46-year-old Sutherland has been in charge at Cricket Australia – an organisation with a staff of around 60 owned by the six state associations, Cricket New South Wales, Queensland Cricket, South Australia Cricket Association, Cricket Tasmania, Cricket Victoria and the Western Cricket Association – since 2001, following three years under Malcolm Speed as general manager. A former cricketer of some note – as a right-arm fast-medium bowler for Victoria he once dismissed a young Ricky Ponting – he has committed himself to his current role until at least 2015, a period in which he hopes to oversee an upturn in the national team’s performance at the same time as preparing for Australia and New Zealand’s joint hosting of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup. There are also back-to-back Ashes tours on the horizon in 2013 but looming largest of all is the visit of the world champions for a series laced with storylines and lucre. “This year will be our highest revenueearning year ever,” says Sutherland, looking ahead. “We’re really coming into our season now. We’ve had a very successful Ashes year – successful commercially anyway. We’re looking optimistically at the season ahead. For every cricket country a year in which you’re hosting India is a huge year because half the world’s watching you. That’s just obviously the growth of the Indian market, the growing middle class in India and the access they have to televisions.” Sutherland estimates that the revenue from the India tour, which will run from December ! ¥/    *       Boxing Day Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground – will be around AUS$250 million. With media rights income so dependent on the opposition, it is perhaps no surprise that Cricket Australia works to a four-year events programme. “It’s partly to do with ICC events and the World Cup coming round every four years, but it’s also about who tours. We tend to have Ashes tours every four years and an Indian tour every four years. As revenues go up and down in that four-year cycle we tend to try and smooth our major costs; to ensure that we continue to develop at a high level in development programmes, smooth our player payments – so player payments don’t go up and down depending on who we’re playing – and also distributions to our member state associations are smoothed as well.” While media rights fees peak and trough, Sutherland explains that sponsorship “is more Œ ‚§ƒˆ> >   >  well related to domestic markets. We don’t, for whatever reason, seem to be able to tap into global budgets for sponsorship and therefore it doesn’t chop and change as much – it tends to be a bit more consistent. It’s really Australian companies or Australian budgets where it’s coming from.” Nonetheless, despite the recent dip in form that has seen them fall down the world rankings, the Australian national cricket team undoubtedly remains one of the most prized properties in the Australian sponsorship market. Cricket Australia has a raft of agreements with companies such as Commonwealth Bank, which sponsors elements of cricket in Australia from the one day international teams to grassroots projects; Test team and series sponsors Vodafone; and premium partner Fosters, through its VB lager and Wolf Blass wine brands. Other partners include Ford, Asics, Gatorade, Weet-Bix, Betfair, Coca Cola Amatil and KFC, the naming rights partner for Cricket Australia’s domestic Twenty20 competition, the KFC Twenty20 Big Bash. KFC has sponsored the Big Bash since 2005 but signed a three-year extension in June, reportedly worth between US$1 million to The Australian cricket team is one of the most decorated in sporting history but the sport in the country, under the control of governing body Cricket Australia, still faces its fair share of financial challenges as chief executive James Sutherland explains. AUSTRALIA’S INDIAN SUMMER By David Cushnan. Photographs by Graham Fudger. “For every cricket country a year in which you’re hosting India is a huge year because half the world’s watching you.” 54 2011 11 David Cushnan {filedir_26}SportsProMag_issue38_54-57.pdf [26379] [sportspro_november_201] SportsPro November 2011