World Series Cricket almost un-balled by Reserve Bank

World Series Cricket almost un-balled by Reserve Bank

The victorious team included Greg Chappell, Rod Marsh, Dennis Lillee and David Hookes. They, and others, would next represent Packer’s WSC Australia at the old VFL Park in Melbourne in December that year.

Kitto wanted approval from the bank under then-existing federal regulations to move money out of Australia. In a formal letter on March 28, he said the aim was to pay “talent” overseas, but he divulged nothing about what the talent would do.

Dennis Lillee bowls to the West Indies’ Andy Roberts at one of the early SuperTests of World Series Cricket.Credit:Fairfax Photography

“One of its functions is to engage the services of persons who are resident abroad and who have talents capable of exploitation in Australia and elsewhere. Our interest in those activities lies in arrangements for coverage for television programming,” he wrote.

“It is not possible to say with whom the contracts are likely to be made or on what terms of conditions.”

The only indication where the money might head was a reference to the West Indies.

The suspicions of the RBA about the proposal were immediately aroused.

In a diary note written the day after Kitto’s letter, senior Reserve Bank staff expressed concern about the lack of information about the entire endeavor. Kitto, it was noted, was “most vague” about the proposal.

“He was unable (or felt unable) to give any details of the sort of contracts these people were to enter into or to give any indication of how much in total might be involved,” the note recorded.

“What Mr Kitto was asking was virtually an authority against a blank check and that his letter was inadequate.”

A phone call that day from Kitto shed a little more light on the situation. He revealed “with some reluctance” that his company was drafting three-year contracts for “persons yet to be named” to “perform sporting or other activities to be specified on a specific number of days or parts of a year”.

Pakistan cricket great Imran Khan was one of the early international players to sign up to play World Series Cricket.

Pakistan cricket great Imran Khan was one of the early international players to sign up to play World Series Cricket.Credit:Fairfax Media

The paperwork signed by Imran Khan witnessed by Austin Robertson and Tony Greig.

The paperwork signed by Imran Khan witnessed by Austin Robertson and Tony Greig.Credit:RBA Archives ECM-A-216

The “performers” would be restricted from taking actions that may be “contrary to the interests of Channel Nine.”

The only inkling that the request was cricket-related was that up to 12 people – the number of a full team – were to be signed.

“Performers would be paid a signing-on fee at the time the contracts were negotiated overseas; and two other lump sum payments for performances while under contract and at the end of the contract period,” the note recorded.

So anxious was Kitto about the issue, that a person was sent to the RBA building in central Sydney to wait on the bank’s final decision.

Bank staff agreed to the request but in return they wanted to see the contracts signed by the various “talents”.

On April 15 – more than three weeks before news of Packer’s cricket revolution broke – the Reserve Bank received a letter saying two people had signed to provide “personal services”.

They were Anderson Roberts, better known as Andy Roberts, and Vivian Richards. Roberts took 202 Test wickets and is an ICC Cricket Hall of Fame inductee. Richards, now Sir Vivian, was named one of Wisden‘s five cricketers of the century.

One of cricket's greatest players, Viv Richards, relaxes after a day's play in one of the early World Series Cricket SuperTests.

One of cricket’s greatest players, Viv Richards, relaxes after a day’s play in one of the early World Series Cricket SuperTests.Credit:Fairfax Media

Three days later, a contract for fast bowler Michael Holding was received. More would soon follow, including those signed by greats such as Zaheer Abbas, Joel Garner, Imran Khan and Alvin Kallicharran.

In many cases, the witness to the contracts was England’s Test captain Tony Greig.

Copies of the contracts held by the RBA show what Packer expected of his team members.

Players had to be available 15 minutes prior to the start, at all times “play to the best of his ability and skill” and ensure they were “physically fit at all times”.

The reputation of the teams, which came under fire from old-school cricketing greats and parts of the media as “pirates” for taking high-paid positions with Packer, was also of paramount importance.


“At all times so conduct himself as to enhance the business and the reputation of The Promoter in promoting professional cricket in Australia and elsewhere and will not do or omit to do anything whereby the good name and reputation of the Promoter or any of its employees or of himself or of any other player taking part in a Tour will or may be likely to be brought into disrepute or ridicule,” the contracts noted.

Not only was the RBA required to facilitate the players’ pay, it was also helped pay for the promotional activities undertaken to highlight the new competition.

On July 18, the bank was contacted saying JP Sport needed to remit money to pay for filming activities in England for a program tentatively called Cricket Circus.


“The company’s management also deems it desirable to obtain, whilst a representative is overseas, action film footage of the West Indian professional cricketers,” it was noted.

All of the documents, which until now have been held in the RBA’s vast archives, are virtually untouched. Only the exact payment to each player has been kept secret on privacy grounds.

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