Cricket: Cricket deal to rival rugby

By Dylan Cleaver

An astonishing broadcasting deal recently signed by New Zealand Cricket is to make the Black Caps the highest-paid team sportsmen in New Zealand, on an equal footing at least with the All Blacks.

Chief executive Justin Vaughan last month signed a deal with Sony Entertainment Television, the Indian broadcasting arm of Sony, to televise international cricket hosted by New Zealand into the Asian market.

NZC's two main sources of revenue are the broadcasting rights sold from home internationals - the most lucrative being sold into Asia - and the dividend from the broadcasting revenue the International Cricket Council (ICC) generates from selling TV rights for its tournaments.

The terms will not be made public but it is understood to be a five-year deal for US$50m (NZ$65.4m), close to a five-fold increase on the previous US$11m ($14.4m) four-year deal between NZC and ESPN-Star.

With 25 per cent of NZC revenue required to go into the player payment pool, New Zealand's contracted players are set for a massive pay rise.

It has now reached the point, Vaughan said, where cricket can compete with rugby in terms of the financial benefits for its athletes.

"Absolutely," Vaughan said, alluding to the fact that the two proposed Twenty20 leagues - the rebel ICL and ICC-endorsed IPL - were adding to the rich rewards being offered to international cricketers.

"When kids reach that age when they're deciding which sport they want to concentrate on then we should be telling them if you think you can make a good career in rugby well, they can make an equally good career, even better, out of cricket. We perhaps couldn't have said that a couple of years ago.

"We need to make sure we... have the right talent identification targeting these kids. Traditionally our high-performance programme hasn't really kicked in until the under-19 level, but we need to start a couple of years earlier than that."

Although the terms of the collective run through to 2010, Vaughan said the player payment pools could be adjusted from next year. He was wary, however, of them becoming too inflated should the terms of the next broadcasting deal not be so attractive.

"There's no doubt that what made this period so attractive to Sony was the fact India are touring here in 2009. Under the Future Tours Programme India may not tour here during the next block."

New Zealand's No 1-ranked cricketer, Shane Bond, currently receives a $128,000 retainer and $6000 per test, $2500 per one-day international and $1500 for a Twenty20 international. The retainers drop by $5000 for each ranking until No 17-20, who each receive a retainer of $48,000.

A conservative estimate would see the payments rise by a third, though Vaughan said this part of the process would be carefully managed.

NZC's revenue will be further bolstered by the ICC's recent broadcasting deal with ESPN-Star to broadcast the World Cup, Champions Trophy and Twenty20 World Championships through to 2015, for US$1 billion, up from US$500m. NZC receives a four-yearly dividend from that.

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