Kevin Roberts, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has revealed that the governing body has declined offers to sign on a betting partner for the men’s and women’s Big Bash Leagues on the basis that the format is pitched primarily at children and families, amid discussion around their high-profile partnership with Bet365.
In the wake of staunch criticism from the noted anti-gambling advocate Tim Costello, who Roberts commissioned to speak with state and territory CEOs last year, CA’s ranking executive stated that the governing body was not about to expand on its commercial relationships with betting companies, and would in time review whether other sponsorship categories could take up the slack currently occupied by Best365, believed to be worth comfortably more than A$10 million a year.
“I really respect Tim’s views. I think there’s two very separate points here. The integrity of the game it’s all about keeping the game clean, and on the other hand, very separately, we have a commercial arrangement in the sports betting space in Australia,” Roberts told SEN Radio. “I would note we’re very conservative in that space though, so as an example I was approached recently about adding a sports betting partner to the BBL and that’s something we won’t do because it’s fun, family entertainment.
“We are conservative in that nature, we have an existing commercial arrangement in some other forms of the game and we need to honour that at this point in time, but in terms of our future commercial strategy, we’re going to be reflecting on the sponsorship categories and the markets where we want to do more, where we want to maintain our position, and in some cases where we want to do less.
“So at this point I’d note they’re very separate issues, one is about keeping the game clean, and the other is that we have a conservative commercial arrangement right now and we’re not adding commercial partnerships to the sports betting space and the BBL will remain clean of that.”
Asked about whether CA could cover the revenue brought in by batting sponsorship via other means, Roberts said the governing body was always looking at which areas it wished to explore more thoroughly or move away from. “I think it depends on the context, the time,” he said. “The reality is we’ve got an existing commercial arrangement, so whether we need that or don’t need that, there’s an existing arrangement in place and we have an obligation to honour that.
“So I don’t want to jump the gun, it’s something that the worst thing we could do is react prematurely. We’ve got to work through this calmly and determine how we want the commercial space to look for cricket going forward.”
Bet365’s advertising with CA includes the boundary rope at all international matches, plus boundary signage whether the fixed versions at some grounds like the Gabba, or the digital signage used at Adelaide Oval, where the betting company’s branding is beamed from every available area apart from the space occupied by the Test series naming rights sponsor, Domain, at either end of the ground. Roberts contended that a removal of this advertising would make little difference to the amount of betting advertising viewed on television and digital broadcasts.
“The reality is if we didn’t have a sports betting partner, the presence of sports betting agencies on the broadcast would hardly look different to the fan to what it does now,” he said. “That boundary rope is one element of the mix, but you’ve only got to sit back and watch cricket on TV at home to see that there’s significant exposure of sports betting agencies, and very hard, in fact impossible I’d suggest, to sit at home and determine which of those are associated with sponsorship or otherwise.”
As for the Emily Smith anti-corruption case, Roberts said he was initially of the mind that a more lenient sentence than a three-month ban should be considered, until he learned more about the circumstances. “I must say when I first heard of the incident, the question I asked myself was given the lack of intent here I wonder how far we could reduce the standard sanction,” he said.
“From that first question I asked myself, given the lack of intent how much can we reduce the standard sanction, then learning a lot of the detail around it informed me. And respectfully a lot of the people commenting on this don’t have the full context or information. The education is very strong in this space, within minutes of that post being made, other female players were responding to it, saying ‘you can’t post that, people could bet on what you put up’. That’s what another player posted, others were saying ‘you need to take that down’.
“Unfortunately it was up for an hour and a half and other players had identified after a few minutes what was out there and saying ‘take it down’. There’s details like that, there’s also the fact Emily and the ACA if they felt the proposed sanction from CA was heavy handed, there was the opportunity to take it to an independent tribunal. If there was genuine belief on the part of the ACA that a reduced sanction would come about from a tribunal, I’m sure they would’ve asked for transcripts of the interviews, witness statements and all the things you’d want to get a hold of.”