Cricket isn’t owned by the players

Dominic Marsh Roar Rookie

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    As a passionate cricket fan, I’m disappointed in the current drama unfolding between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketer’s Association (ACA). As a lover of Australian cricket, I’m disgusted.

    Who is right and who is wrong? Is there really any side which is more right than the other? I guess that this is a matter of opinion. For what it’s worth, my feet stand firmly with Cricket Australia as the administrators of our national game.

    Why? Because they’re the ones charged with ensuring the success of all levels of Australian cricket.

    Like it or not, agree with it or not. The fact is that the health of the game in this country is the responsibility of Cricket Australia and the board – not the responsibility of those in the national team.

    For many, the current divide between the two parties is somewhat confusing. Let me try and explain the situation as it stands. For the last 20 years, the players have shared in all revenue generated by Cricket Australia (CA).

    It is called the ‘revenue sharing agreement’. It came about in 1997, at a time when Australia’s cricketers were still poorly paid. No one could argue that is the case anymore.

    Last November, discussions began to try and confirm the new payment model for all Australia’s cricketers as the current MoU was due to expire the following June. The players representative, the Australian Cricketer’s Association (ACA) had preluded discussions by attempting to expand the current revenue-sharing system to include all digital revenue – in essence, seeking even more money.

    Conversely, CA was proposing a change to the current structure. It was suggesting adopting a profit sharing system (whereby players would share profits between them – capped at $20 million) as well as fixed wages to all international and state players, including female players.

    CA we’re proposing this because the revenue sharing model is outdated. Costs for running cricket have increased. CA want to invest more in grassroots cricket and in marketing the game.

    Australia’s international stars are paid millions per year. Australia’s state cricketers are paid on average, more than twice the average Australian wage. Under CA’s proposal, Australia’s female stars would receive a pay increase of $100k per year.

    So, what is the issue? It’s pretty simple: money. It’s what drives all workplace related angst. Don’t be fooled by any other rhetoric being spun by players or the ACA.

    Indeed, their inconsistent messages simply provide further evidence of the fact this is purely financially driven. Dave Warner, the somewhat strange choice as spokesperson for the players said on the June 18 “we won’t budge from the revenue sharing model. We want fairness and equality for all domestic and female players.”

    It was then made known that actually, domestic state players are for all intents and purposes, well paid and that as previously stated, the female players were due an increase of $100k under the CA model.

    So, when former Australian opening batsman Michael Slater challenged another ACA spokesperson, Ed Cowan, last week on radio about the players perhaps being greedy, the reasoning had changed from it being about equality for the domestic and female players to being about “keeping a check on Cricket Australia and how they spend the money”.

    Players now claim that it’s not about money at all but rather a distrust of how the administrators actually administer the game.

    Glenn Maxwell congratulates David Warner

    (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

    This is when I start having a real issue. Are we expected to believe that Warner, Steve Smith, Mitch Starc, Glenn Maxwell, even Cowan really care about how CA ‘divvy’ up the remaining revenue? Does being an exceptional cricketer provide one with experience on being a sports administrator?

    Of course it doesn’t. And only the bleedingly naive would believe for a second that the players are really concerned with the way in which CA administer the game. Indeed, under the current model, if you believe Cowan, the players must be extremely active in providing opinion on all matters from marketing and coach education to grass roots. Spare me.

    The fact is that the players know that, longer term, it’s not in their best interests financially to eradicate the current revenue sharing model. It’s that simple. It does not for a second mean that they won’t be well compensated for their amazing skill and performance.

    In this current climate, I often hear or read someone say ‘the players are the game’ as some sort of justification for their current demands. Utter rubbish. The game is owned by all Australian fans – not by the elite 15 contracted cricketers.

    It’s a game that people love because of our proud history in the sport. The game is flush both financially and participatory at the moment because as fans and cricket lovers, we pay to support our national team, we pay to play because we love the sport. This has long been the case, even before Warner and co.

    It must not be forgotten that these international players earn a large amount of money because of everyday fans. Because of the coaches and junior clubs that supported and nurtured them along their journey – because of the very system they are currently questioning and tearing apart.

    For these players to even consider putting at risk Australian cricket fans’ greatest love – the Ashes – just demonstrates how far removed from reality they are.

    I never thought I’d say this but I’d rather the Ashes series was cancelled than provide these self indulgent, pampered prima donnas with a cent more than they’re worth.

    CA aren’t perfect and they will continue to make mistakes, but they must continue to stand firm for the survival of the sport in this country. It is their responsibility to run cricket. Cricket isn’t owned by the players. It’s owned by the wider cricket community.

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