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America's Cup- Radio slur results in retraction and settlement

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World.com/nz on 8 Mar 2014
Team New Zealand was formed by Peter Blake and Alan Sefton to win the 1995 and 2000 America’s Cups . ..

Leading sports radio station, Radio Sport, has made an on-air retraction of comments relating to salaries paid to former members of Team New Zealand.

The retraction comes after the publication of a controversial commentary piece in the New Zealand Herald by sports columnist Chris Rattue in which he questioned whether Dean Barker should continue as the skipper of Team New Zealand for the next America's Cup.

Later that morning, Rattue opened the hour long segment, on leading sports radio station, Radio Sport. It did not take long to get into some of the popular general media angles on Team New Zealand, such as the Government funding, whether Dean Barker and Grant Dalton should continue with the team, whether the Team is a closed shop, how much people get paid, and why those salaries and incomes are not publicly published.

(NZ Trade and Enterprise was a key sponsor of the 2007 and 2013 America's Cup Challenges by Team New Zealand, under a two challenge deal signed by the then Labour Government. Controversially the deal has been rolled over for the 2017, with an initial $5million of funding money to allow the team to make a decision on whether or not to Challenge for the 2017 Cup.)

Rattue's comments in print and on air, triggered the discussion Radio Sport, with some vigorous, but largely uniformed, discussion on the direction Team New Zealand should have in future America's Cups.

Midway through the hour, host Martin Devlin stepped over the sideline with these comments:

'...the other thing is the accountability of the money, which is the big bugbear of mine, and I know why they don't because these guys pay themselves millions of dollars in salary, and that is a fact. I know that Blake and Sefton were getting paid about five million each with the America's Cup and they weren't even on the bloody boat.'

(Sir Peter Blake and Alan Sefton formed Team NZ for the 1995 America's Cup, and won, after Sir Michael Fay's efforts from 1987-1992 with then New Zealand Challenge. They also successfully defended in 2000. Blake sailed on NZL-32 in the 1995 America's Cup.)

Devlin continued with more general references about the value of properties owned, presumably by members of the current team, and comments in a similar vein claiming 'they are all getting rich off this..'

Devlin's comments triggered a legal response from Alan Sefton, culminating in the reading, three times, on air of a statement acknowledging that the comments made by Devlin were completely untrue.

'Devlin's statements were capable of suggesting that Alan Sefton had used his involvement in the America's Cup campaigns to pay himself millions of dollars out of Government and taxpayer funds that had been paid to support the campaigns', the station said, in what is believed to have been a negotiated statement.

'Martin Devlin's statements also alleged that Alan Sefton had endeavoured to keep the amount he had received secret because of concerns about adverse public reaction.

'These claims were completely untrue and should never have been made.

'Alan Sefton did not pay himself any Government or taxpayer funds. He never received anything for his prominent role in the 1995 and 2000 America's Cup campaigns other than a salary and a commission on funds raised. At all times he acted ethically in relation to the funds received by Team New Zealand, whether in the form of sponsorship or otherwise.

'The broadcast claims are deeply regretted. Both Martin Devlin and Radio Sport unreservedly apologise to Alan Sefton for the harm these statements may have caused to his reputation.'

The statement concluded with the comment that a settlement had been reached on confidential terms. It is not known if this was a monetary settlement.

Devlin himself read s statement, similar to that above, twice on Thursday morning but with a rapid fire muted delivery that was near unintelligible.

Friday's retraction was read by another station staff member, at normal delivery pace and diction from which the above transcript was taken.

The matter is now believed to be closed.

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