Attempt to deprive the cricketers of their proper share of the revenue, intense protest on part of the cricketers, resulting in the threat to step aside from the national team before an important series – all these have become very common incidents in the world of cricket, thanks to the West Indies Cricket Board and cricketers. Many even consider the long term conflict between Caribbean Cricket Board and Cricketers as the reason behind the downfall of West Indies cricket.
Now a similar conflict between the Board and the Cricketers suddenly bring forth a very apt question: Is Australian cricket heading the same way? Is the recent fall out between Cricket Australia and the players will end up with the senior cricketers boycotting the Ashes?
The Australian players probably won’t strike, nor will be they be laid off. It’s just that there is a certain amount of posturing each side has to work through in negotiations on a pay deal. It is particularly strident because the disagreement is about not just a quantum of money, but the principle under which is it is distributed, leading each side to believe that the time to act is now.
The board and players – each has a case. On one hand, Cricket Australia says the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) is to blame for the ugly pay dispute which threatens play post-June 30 because it will not budge from the revenue-sharing model which has served the sport well for 20 years. On the other hand, the ACA – representing a bunch of players who are not afraid to get on social media and hint at an Ashes boycott – say it’s CA’s “incoherence” and “aggression” that has turned these discussions sour.
— David Warner (@davidwarner31) May 14, 2017
The divide has become so great that there is now even an argument over whether mediation can be used, with CA claiming the ACA did not agree to this in November when CA urged that negotiations be conducted in private. The two parties can’t find any common ground on how to carve up more than $400 million in expected player pay over the next five years seems ridiculous.
It is fact that cricket, under the CA direction of James Sutherland, and the ACA under Alistair Nicholson, continues to grow, and the greater focus on the women’s game has been a boon for everyone. But what was a relatively smooth relationship has turned nasty. CA has clearly taken a more militant line this time around, with claims CA chairman David Peever wanting to break the union. CA denies this claim.
Paul Marsh, the former ACA chief, had wanted to replicate cricket’s set percentage model with the Australian Football League (AFL). The AFL did not agree to that but a mechanism has been struck so players receive about 28 per cent of unbudgeted income should AFL revenues exceed forecasts. The salary cap this year will rise by almost $40 million overall. In terms of unbudgeted revenue, this sounds a similar deal to what CA has offered the players, with the set-percentage model to be used for international male and female players if income exceeds estimates. Where the argument differs is that CA no longer wants Sheffield Shield players to share in the percentage of revenue. The AFL or NRL equivalent would be having only superstars like Patrick Dangerfield or Cooper Cronk share in the added spoils. Under CA’s offer, Shield players would be paid only from a lump sum, although salaries of about $300,000 – excluding income from overseas competitions – are still more than healthy.
Players argue first-class cricket is the lifeblood of the sport. CA says the Shield doesn’t pay its own way and wants player incomes to increase from BBL contracts. It’s been called a divide-and-conquer policy, and it could be argued CA has underestimated the players’ resolve to remain united.
After all these fighting, the good news is that Cricket Australia and the players’ body, the Australian Cricketers’ Association, are talking again. On Wednesday, CA chairman David Peever wrote to counterpart Greg Dyer and all players to reject the ACA’s request for the bodies to try mediation. They will perhaps not pursue it to the point either of walk-off or lock-out. The players had no alternative employment. Moreover, boycotting an Ashes series means to take the risk of becoming the target of a massive public contempt. On the other hand, the Board will not want to be rigid and come under the fury of the cricket lovers worldwide by depriving them of a series like Ashes.
The deadline is June 30, when the current memorandum of understanding expires. The fans have started to pray for a positive outcome. After all, who can forget what happened to the legacy of Caribbean cricket?