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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Court backed Packer's men
Three players won a restraint of trade hearing against the ICC and TCCB
The Packer saga reached the High Court in 1977
test hello test
Thrasy Petropoulos
By Thrasy Petropoulos
BBC Sport Online cricket writer

World Series Cricket is famous for its contests between the fastest bowlers in the world and often helmetless batsmen, but the fiercest battle of all was reserved for a London courtroom.

No sooner had England regained the Ashes in the summer of 1977 than the International Cricket Conference (ICC) had issued a statement that it was to ban any cricketer "who has played, or made himself available to play, in a match previously disapproved by the Conference."

In the same breath, the Test and County Cricket Board (TCCB) passed a motion to ban any World Series player from county cricket for several years.

Effectively, the international career of every player contracted to Packer's circus was over, and the six English recruits - Tony Greig, John Snow, Alan Knott, Derek Underwood, Dennis Amiss and Bob Woolmer - were committing cricketing suicide.

With the backing of Packer, Greig, Snow and Mike Procter, who had been playing for Gloucestershire since 1968 contested the rulings.

The stakes could not have been higher.

South African all-rounder Mike Procter
Mike Procter was at his peak during the 1970s

The damage done between the South African-born Greig and the English authorities was irreparable and Snow was coming to the end of his playing career.

But the ruling of Mr Justice Slade would essentially determine the fate of every World Series player.

For 30 days from 26 September, evidence was heard from representatives of the ICC and TCCB and the plaintiffs, Greig, Snow and Procter.

Points of argument

On the one hand, it was argued, Greig had just completed a tour of Australia as England captain and could therefore look forward with reasonable confidence to his re-appointment in the job.

On the other, neither the ICC nor the TCCB had entered into any kind of commitment to offer employment to Greig, or any other cricketer.

Furthermore, the players themselves had entered into no contractual commitment with the ICC or the TCCB precluding them from playing cricket for a private company.

And so it continued.

It was acknowledged that the ICC's effective monopoly in the promotion of international cricket had been good for the game and that the emergence of WSC had been bad for it.

But, it was argued, there would be demonstrable disadvantages if the bans were to be applied.

World players watch from the balcony in Sydney
Procter, Greig and Snow played for Packer's World XI

They would deny the players concerned their professional livelihood and they would deprive the public of any opportunity of seeing the players concerned playing in conventional matches.

Added to that, the ICC and TCCB had acted unlawfully themselves by acting without adequate regard to the fact that WSC had contractual rights with players concerned, which were entitled to the protection of the law.

After a five and a half hour summary, Mr Justice Slade finally reached his conclusion.

All the changes of the rules of the International Cricket Conference and all their resolutions banning the plaintiffs from Test cricket were 'ultra vires' and void as being in unreasonable restraint of trade.

So, too, were the Test and County Cricket Board's proposed rules governing qualification and registration of cricketers in Test and county cricket.

Greig and co had won and the ICC and TCCB were ordered to pay 250,000 in costs.

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