“Listen this is how things work … Nine has the cricket, Seven has tennis and football, Ten has the rest. That’s how things have always been done… keep off the grass’.”
Those were allegedly the words of former Tennis Australia director Harold Mitchell during the broadcast rights negotiations for the Australian Open in 2013.
Mitchell’s conduct during the negotiations is currently under the scrutiny of the Federal Court, where the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has initiated a civil penalty case against the media personality.
It has so far been alleged that Mitchell told Seven West Media that Network 10 was looking to steal the Australian Open TV rights from it in 2013.
As the case continued in court on Wednesday, ASIC’s lawyer claimed there was a “vast body of evidence” to show Mitchell helped Seven win the broadcast, per reports in The Sydney Morning Herald.
Mitchell allegedly set up a Tennis Australia board subcommittee to handle the rights, however the subcommittee never met before Seven was awarded the rights.
It is also alleged former Tennis Australia director Stephen Healy was involved, although not to the same extent as Mitchell.
It was while discussing how the subcommittee would operate with Tennis Austalia boss Steve Wood that Mitchell apparently made the “keep off the grass comment”.
The court also heard that if Tennis Australia knew “what was going on” – with Healy and Seven – it “would not have accepted the deal and proposed to have the deal put out to the market”.
ASIC is seeking to proof both Mitchell and Healy breached the Corporations Act, which would disqualify both from being company directors.
Both Mitchell and Healy have denied any wrongdoing and are defending the proceedings.