Sandpaper Gate: Cricket Australia set to lose millions of dollars, viewers

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New Delhi | Published: March 27, 2018 3:10:44 PM

Steve Smith's admission of senior players being involved in a plan to tamper the ball during the Cape Town Test has left Cricket Australia in a non-defendable position.

australian cricket team, cricket australia, steve smith, ball tampering, ball tampering row, sandpaper gate, cameron bancroft, sports newsSteve Smith admitted that he was aware of ball tampering. (Source: Reuters)

The Australian cricket team, with its overboard aggression, has always been a subject of talk among the cricket pundits. The board has defended this approach, often facing the criticism itself. However, after Steve Smith’s admission of senior players being involved in a plan to tamper the ball during the Cape Town Test, Cricket Australia is left in a non-defendable position. The consequences can be far more grave than what a normal cricket viewer can understand.

The development comes at a time when Cricket Australia is renegotiating its broadcasting deal under which it was paid Aus $600 million for a period of five years. The deal ends at the end of the year and can be under serious threat if Steve Smith or David Warner are not banned. Even if the board decides to suspend these players as suggested by some media reports, the broadcasters can use the recent controversy as a tool to bargain.

According to the details provided by Cricket Australia on its most recent annual report, it had earned a whopping Aus $338.4 million ($261 million) in media, sponsorship and spectator fees in the financial year ended June 30, 2017. It could take a hit there as well.

Even though Australia’s long-term cricket broadcaster Nine Entertainment declined to comment on the issue, few of its major sponsors including Qantas Airways, breakfast cereal maker Sanitarium and brewer Lion on Monday said that they were assessing their relationship with the country’s favourite pastime.

Weetbix-maker Sanitarium, which counts Smith as a brand ambassador, said it was reviewing its sponsorship pending the outcome of an investigation by governing body Cricket Australia. “Certainly it’s under review as the actions taken by the team in South Africa don’t align with our own values – Sanitarium does not condone cheating in sport,” Sanitarium said in a statement.

Even other sponsors like ASICS, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, insurer Bupa, Specsavers, Toyota, and brewer Lion, which owns beer sponsor XXXX, expressed similar views.

“Like the rest of Australia, we’re deeply concerned,” a Lion spokesman said in a statement. “This is not what you’d expect from anyone in sport at any level.”

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia supremo James Sutherland arrived in South Africa on Tuesday to investigate the matter. Irrespective of what the final decision is, Cricket Australia is set to lose a segment of the viewing market because of the incident.

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