Sky sticks with SBW but public not so sure

NEIL REID
Last updated 05:00 17/02/2013
Sonny Bill Williams
Getty Images
STAYING THE COURSE: SKY TV has no plans to cut ties with Sonny Bill Williams, despite controversy surrounding his fight with Francois Botha.

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Sonny Bill Williams' reputation has taken a buffeting in the wake of last week's boxing farce.

Williams topped a Stuff poll on who is New Zealand's most disliked sports personality.

The poll ran throughout the week following the controversial match-up with South African Francois Botha.

Williams drew 31 per cent of the vote of almost 2000 respondents to finish narrowly ahead of Black Caps coach Mike Hesson (29.9 per cent).

The role of Russell Coutts in wresting the America's Cup away from New Zealand still rankles with many and he was third with 21 per cent of the vote.

James Tamou, the New Zealand league prop who swapped the chance to wear black to play State of Origin for NSW and tests for Australia, was fourth with 8.5 per cent. Blues skipper and All Black lock Ali Williams came next with 8 per cent.

And while Hesson is unpopular over his role in supplanting Black Caps skipper Ross Taylor with Brendon McCullum, the latter doesn't seem to have lost many fans. McCullum drew only 3 per cent of the vote.

Meanwhile, Sky TV has no plans to cut its ties with Williams following last Friday's pay-per-view "farce".

Instead, the broadcaster says it is a case of buyer beware for anyone who purchases pay-per-view events, including future fights involving the dual international.

The pay-TV network was flooded with complaints from customers who shelled out $39.95 for the SBW/Botha match; promoted in TV adverts as a scheduled 12-round fight for the World Boxing Association's International heavyweight belt.

But the fight was stopped after just 10 rounds, with Botha claiming it was a late rule change to save Williams from a certain late-bout knockout. Since then there have been allegations of Botha failing a drugs test and that the South African was offered A$150,000 to throw the fight.

WBA officials - who are considering an approach from Botha to scrub the fight from his record - have also said they never sanctioned the bout and that the belt presented to a dazed, but victorious, Williams was a fake.

Despite the raft of controversies, Sky TV chief executive John Fellet said the network would not shy away from future Williams events, adding that the broadcaster was not in the business of making "editorial judgments".

"It is the murky world of boxing," Fellet told Sunday News.

"At the end of the day, we get hammered for not doing it [broadcasting events] and hammered for doing it. So we can make it available and consumers can decide what product they want to buy and what product they don't want to buy."

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In the weeks leading up to last week's bout, adverts promoting "12 rounds of knockout action" bombarded Sky TV's sport and movie channels.

Fellet said Sky had received copy for the adverts from the fight's host- broadcaster, Australia's Foxtel.

Sky produced its own adverts without checking with Williams' manager and boxing promoter, Khoder Nasser, that it was actually a 12-round bout.

And at the final pre-match press conference, Williams had referred to the fight being a 12-rounder when discussing Botha's fitness.

In future, Fellet said Sky would check all promotional material with the respective fight promoter.

But he said that still would not avoid confusion from a late decision to change the number of scheduled rounds, as appeared to be the case with the SBW/Botha clash.

Fellet added: "Wrestlemania . . . it is fake. I always tell people if you want to make sure the event goes the full advertised listed time, order a WWE event . . . they have never been more than 60 seconds off the full run sheet."

On Friday, the executive director of the Australian Crime Commission, Paul Jevtovic, told Sunday News from Sydney that to date, his body had not commenced an investigation into the raft of post-fight allegations.

But Jevtovic said: "The Australian Crime Commission will continue to work with ASADA (Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority), the National Integrity of Sport Unit and relevant sports integrity units on drug use by athletes, match fixing and the fraudulent manipulation of betting markets."

The commission went public 10 days ago that it had uncovered allegations of drug use, crime links to sport and one instance of match-fixing in Australian sport during a long- running investigation.

- Sunday Star Times

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