The disagreement between the Australian Cricket Board (CA) and the Cricketers over revenue sharing pay dispute is showing no sign to put a stop.
The primary issue is over CA’s bid to end the revenue share model adopted in 1997. Players had been sharing in gross revenue. CA now wants them only to share in surplus revenue.
Those players who were centrally contracted and state players without multi-year deals had their first day of unemployment on Saturday after a deadline for a new memorandum of understanding was not brokered by Friday evening. Players were due to be paid next on July 15.
Players and player agents have indicated there is little hope this month’s Australia A tour of South Africa will go ahead, while the Test tour of Bangladesh in August is also set to be scrapped unless there is a significant breakthrough between the Australian Cricketers Association and Cricket Australia. Cracks could be starting to appear in the unified player stance against Cricket Australia with some advocating a boycott of next week’s Australia A camp, and the tour of South Africa if a new pay deal is not done.
Under a deal initially devised in 1997 when player salaries were laughingly still poor, Malcolm Speed, then the Australian Cricket Board’s chief, and Tim May, the former off-spinner turned Australian Cricketers Association chief, would agree to allow the players to share in the sport’s gross revenue. This being international and state-based male cricketers. Players’ wages would instantly rise, and many would become multi-millionaires through their Cricket Australia contracts alone. To the point, CA now says the average wage of an international player is $1.16 million. State-based players pocket on average $199,000, having enjoyed a 53 per cent rise in the past five years. And that’s been one of the key sticking points leading to where we sit today, with the Australian Cricketers Association declaring this to be the sport’s biggest crisis since the World Series Cricket breakaway of 1977.
Cricket Australia no longer wants players to share in gross revenue; only in surplus revenue. When CA revealed its submission in December, state players were even barred from that. Offers of “unpaid” contracts for those with national deals that expire on Friday, including Test stars Glenn Maxwell and Usman Khawaja, will be knocked back with a refusal to go on the “A” tour. But other players who are locked into long-term state deals are indicating their desire to show up for the squad’s camp in Brisbane next Monday to avoid being in breach of their contracts and continue to push their international claims.
There has not been a meeting of substance between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association since December 19, and that lasted only minutes when CA accused its counterpart of not negotiating in good faith. Regardless, Cricket Australia’s offer – on face value – appeared tempting. International female players would have their wages immediately leap from $79,000 to $179,000, a dramatic rise at a time when the women’s game, certainly in terms of broadcasting and sponsorship, is in its infancy.
“It’s certainly a step in the right direction. We weren’t happy with it, I guess, but … it’s a whole player agreement, and we are fully behind all players, male or female, state, international, so that’s where we are at with the players,” Australian women’s captain Meg Lanning was quoted saying to an Australian Newspaper last month.
And that’s where all players are now, heading into Sunday’s emergency meeting in Sydney. The players in one corner, Cricket Australia in the other. It’s been noted CA chief James Sutherland has attended only one meeting, leaving the negotiations to Kevin Roberts, also an experienced administrator seen as Sutherland’s successor. His absence may have added to the deterioration in relations between the parties. There have also been misgivings of each other’s attempts to greater finance grassroots cricket. The players have called for mediation. Cricket Australia has ignored this. There have been rumours of a “dirt file” on players and ACA officials doing the rounds, although nothing dramatic has been come up.
Months after negotiations began and tedious weeks since any meaningful dialogue, on the day the MOU expires, and we’ve gotten nowhere. Bosses and players are in their corners, sticking to their rigidly ideological positions, barely listening to each other and not hearing at all.
Nine months on, and the fight continues.