The Packer timeline

World Series Cricket - November 1977

David Frith
A timeline of events in World Series Cricket during November 1977 when the High Court made its ruling



Mr Justice Slade: his ruling dealt a major blow to the establishment © The Cricketer
November 1 Day 27 of the High Court hearing - Mr Kempster, QC, continues his closing address throughout the day, claiming that World Series Cricket would contribute nothing to the game apart from a schoolboys coaching scheme in NSW. The TCCB and ICC had to take action to preserve the game against this kind of "disapproved" cricket and likely imitators. He points out that the ban would be "subject to the over-riding discretion of the board".

November 2 Day 28 of the High Court hearing - Kempster closes his speech, having submitted that Packer's contracts with his players were void in law since there was no positive obligation on the part of the promoter. Any player wishing to challenge his contract would have to take legal action in New South Wales as the contracts had been drawn up under the laws of that State. Mr Andrew Morritt, QC, begins his final address for the plaintiffs, saying that the cricket authorities had seen fit to introduce provisions against this "thoroughly unwelcome competition" which "were plainly dictatorial, penal, and an infringement of the liberty of the individual". He describes the existing system of cricket administration as "feudal" and as amounting to a monopoly. He rejects the idea that Packer was conducting a vendetta against the Australian Cricket Board.

November 3 Day 29 of the High Court hearing - Morritt continues his final submissions, claiming that criticism of Packer's secrecy while he signed players up was "absurd": "Everyone is entitled to negotiate a contract in private." Mr Justice Slade asks if it is not unreasonable to assume that attendances at the Australia-England Tests of 1978-79 would drop if competing with World Series matches. This would be problematical, says Morritt, who claims that the recruitment of 51 of the world's leading cricketers was an eloquent commentary on the stewardship of the game by the world's control bodies.

In Melbourne difficulty is being experienced in shifting the four artificial pitches (two having failed) from the greenhouses to Waverley Park. With only three weeks remaining before the first match, curator John Maley is anxious to have the pitches bedded in. The hovercraft-type lifting method works but the raised concrete units will not move.

November 4 Day 30 of the High Court hearing - Continuing his closing address, Morritt claims that allegations that the cricket authorities had induced players to break their Packer contracts by announcing the proposed ban had been "proved to the hilt". He says the defendants' claim that Packer contracts were invalid because of an absence of obligation on the part of World Series Cricket should be disregarded. WSC had a commitment. The plea that the authorities did what they did in the best interests of cricket, he says, was unacceptable. They had neither duty imposed by law nor contractual rights. Reference to the case of George Eastham and the football authorities was deemed by Mr Justice Slade to be an "extraordinary proposition". The court rises at 3.30 pm because of a power cut.

Former Australian fast bowler Graham McKenzie and Trevor Chappell, younger brother of Ian and Greg, sign World Series contracts.

In Melbourne the hovercraft method of shifting the artificial pitches is abandoned; cranes and low trucks will be used.

November 6 The first pitch is moved from the greenhouse and stands outside the stadium ready for planting during the week. An armed guard stands by.

November 7 Day 31 of the High Court hearing - Morritt concludes his 12-hour closing speech, and after almost 140 hours in session during which nine witnesses were called for the plaintiffs and 12 for the defendants, the hearing ends, and Mr Justice Slade indicates that he will deliver his judgment in the following week.

November 8 World Series Cricket announce a new rule on field-placings in the one-day matches: nine of the fielding side (including bowler and wicketkeeper) must be within 28 metres of the bat for the first 10 overs of an innings, and six during the remainder of the innings.

The pitch, grown in two 50-ton concrete trays in a hothouse, is laid by crane at VFL Park, a week behind schedule. Groundsman John Maley says, "I've worked 207 days straight - no time off."

November 11 It is revealed that David Hookes's WSC contract is for six years, probably the longest of any player's, and that fast bowler Alan Hurst turned down a $75,000 three-year WSC contract in October after his club, North Melbourne, had made a counter-offer.

November 15 Packer players begin net practice in Melbourne, and three sports identities arrive to pass on their ideas on motivation - tennis player John Newcombe, Australian Rules football coach Ron Barassi, and boxing trainer Jack Rennie.

The West Indies Board states that all its players will be considered eligible for the inter-island Shell Shield matches and local games.

November 16 The first trial match starts at St Kilda, Melbourne: Ian Chappell's XI v Richie Robinson's XI. Over 5000 people watch, no admission having been charged.

November 17 Ian Davis makes a century in the trial match. Gary Gilmour's thumb is broken by a ball from fast bowler Wayne Prior.

November 18 Kerry Packer will not after all be allowed to stage matches at Sydney Cricket Ground. The Australian Equity Court rules that the NSW Cricket Association, appealing against an earlier decision, must have use of the ground on dates in December and January when the second and fourth WSC `Super Tests' were planned. They will now be staged at Sydney Showground. It is disclosed that Irving Rosenwater has been signed up by Packer as WSC scorer and statistician.

November 21 Sir Garfield Sobers, signed by WSC to assist in promotions, arrives in Melbourne. He says if he were 20 years younger he "would have joined the Packer circus without hesitation." Dr Allen Aylett, president of the Victorian Football League, is signed as official dentist.

At a Press conference, Kerry Packer says there is a strong possibility his players would play a series in England if they were banned by the TCCB. He says that grounds have already been offered. He adds that the BBC and commercial TV companies had shown interest in televising the forthcoming WSC matches, but had broken off negotiations because county contracts prevented players appearing in unauthorised matches televised in Britain. His series, he says, will be played outside the Laws of cricket because they are copyrighted by MCC. Apart from the 28-metre fielding rings, allowance would be made for a sixth day's play if there is weather interruption, and umpires would use their discretion in no-balling bowlers for over-stepping and for short-pitched bowling. He hints that there had been approaches from American promoters wanting to take the series to the USA.

Clive Lloyd forecasts that James Allen, from Montserrat, would be the batting sensation of the series in Australia.

November 22 Dennis Amiss bats at the nets wearing a full-sized crash-helmet with transparent bulletproof visor.



Kerry Packer gazes through sunglasses at the first trial match at VFL Park © The Cricketer
November 24 Two trial matches begin: An Australian XI v A World XI in Melbourne (captains Ian Chappell and Tony Greig), and A West Indies XI v A World XI in Adelaide (captains Clive Lloyd and Asif Iqbal). Mike Procter bowls the first ball to Rick McCosker in the Melbourne contest, which attracts 2449 spectators, and Ian Chappell is 118 not out that evening. In Adelaide, where 1000 attend, Andy Roberts starts the action to Dennis Amiss, who makes 81; Eddie Barlow, David Hookes, and Asif Iqbal make half-centuries on a pitch described by Clive Lloyd as "too slow".

November 25 Mr Justice Slade rules that to ban cricketers from playing county or Test cricket because they had signed with World Series Cricket would be an unreasonable restraint of trade and an inducement to them to break their Packer contracts. He rejects the TCCB and ICC argument that it was morally wrong for players to sign for Packer, and holds that the proposed ban is void. The judge takes 5½ hours to read out his judgment, which occupies 211 foolscap pages. Costs, estimated at £250,000, are awarded to Packer's side.

His Lordship had considered nine principal questions for ultimate decision, and found for the plaintiffs in each:

(A) Are the contracts between WSC and its players void? (B) Has WSC established that, as at August 3, and subject to any statutory immunity conferred by the 1974 Act, it has a good cause of action in tort against the ICC based on inducement of breach of contract? (C) Has WSC established that as at August 3 and subject as aforesaid, it had a good cause of action in tort against the TCCB based on the same grounds? (D) Subject to the provisions of the 1974 Act, are the new ICC rules void as being in restraint of trade? (E) Subject to aforesaid, are the proposed new TCCB rules void as being in restraint of trade? (F) Is the ICC an `employers' association' within the 1974 Act? (G) Is the TCCB an `employers' association'? (H) If either the ICC or TCCB or both be `employers' associations', does this itself bar any cause of action that would otherwise exist? (I) In the light of the answers, what relief (if any) should be given to (i) the individual plaintiffs and (ii) WSC?

He accepts that the authorities were "dedicated lovers of the game" who had acted in good faith. However, this, he says, was irrelevant when considering the legal issues. "A professional cricketer needs to make his living as much as any other professional man." The WSC players, with the possible exception of Mr Greig, could not justifiably be criticised on moral grounds for maintaining strict secrecy, His Lordship says.

Kerry Packer's reaction is: "I can say with some assurance that we are incredibly delighted at the decision." TCCB chairman Doug Insole says: "There is going to be no great joy in it either way for people who love the game." Hoping the court's decision leads to a compromise, Tony Greig says: "Mr Packer's door is always wide open."

In Adelaide, Clive Lloyd scores 140 in the trial match before a crowd of 650. In Melbourne, 2545 see Dennis Lillee, bowling fast, take 1 for 34.

November 26 Ian Redpath scores 152 in the Melbourne WSC trial match. Bill O'Reilly, writing for the Sunday Times, says that "this brand of cricket lacks some essential ingredient, which leaves it as nothing more than a gutless demonstration of a game which normally demands a large ration of hot-blooded competition to make its appeal to a crowd."

A West Indies XI beat A World XI by 10 wickets inside three days in Adelaide.

November 27 The Pakistan Board state that in spite of the High Court ruling they will not be selecting Mushtaq, Asif Iqbal, Zaheer, Majid, and Imran for Test or domestic cricket.

Kerry Packer is reported in the Daily Mail as having said: "You British reckon everything can be solved by compromise and diplomacy. We Australians fight to the very last ditch." He will not travel to Britain for further meetings with the ICC or TCCB, but would be prepared to talk to their representatives in Australia.

The Melbourne trial match is washed out after half an hour on the fourth day. In Adelaide, A West Indies XI beats A World XI by four wickets in a one-day match. Attendances are still low.

November 29 The TCCB decides, in a meeting at Lord's, that no decision will be made until January 6 concerning an appeal against sections of the High Court judgment against them. A full transcript of Mr Justice Slade's judgment was awaited, and counsel's opinion would then be sought. By January 6 it is expected that the ICC will also have been guided by counsel on what action should be taken. Commenting on statements made to the Press by various county club officials, Donald Carr, TCCB secretary, points out that no official decisions by full committees have yet been taken: "One would hope that the views of the Board on everything would be of a unanimous nature."

Actors' Equity of Australia complain that Kerry Packer's television network has an "obsession" with sport, to the detriment of actors and technicians working in drama. Broadcasting laws require 50% Australian content. An hour of drama or comedy production costs about $64,000; an hour of World Series Cricket costs about $24,000.

At St Kilda, 17 WSC players coach 150 schoolboys.

November 30 Australian Cricket Board chairman Bob Parish says that a compromise this season is unlikely since both parties have already gone too far in their commitments.

In the first International Country Cup match, played at Geelong, WSC Australia beat WSC West Indies by 49 runs (Rick McCosker 74, Len Pascoe 4 for 47), taking the prize money of $1200 and two points. Over 3000 watch the match, in which Ian Redpath snaps the Achilles tendon in his left leg as he leaps in jubilation at having had Clive Lloyd caught. He is expected to miss the rest of the season at least.