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Australian cricket turmoil: What’s really going on in this ridiculous pay dispute?

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    Cricket in this country has reached an unbelievable position: as of last Friday, Australia’s best professional players are unemployed, and every future tour is under threat as the dispute is still raging on.

    What’s the real issue?
    The heart of the issue is not dollar value to be paid to the players – it’s the model of payment.

    The last 20 years have seen Australia’s best cricketers paid under a revenue-sharing model, which split up payment between male domestic and international players and the governing body.

    On December 12 last year though, with the Memorandum of Understanding expiring on June 31, Cricket Australia sent their first pay draft to the Australian Cricketers’ Association with a fixed wage model, including a capped bonus system only available to international players rather than everyone.

    This, if it were ever to come into effect, gives wage control directly to the board, rather than it being determined by the revenue generated by cricket in Australia.

    From there, neither side has budged. CA have tried to deal directly with the players, the ACA and players have knocked back everything sent their way, and we now find ourselves in a stand-off.

    In March, CA presented their formal pay deal, which added elements to the December deal, but was largely unchanged. It was around this time the media coverage in the issue ramped up.

    It’s since been made clear the ACA isn’t going to accept anything not including a revenue sharing model.

    In the March deal, CA said they want to return more money to grassroots and attempted to sign players on multi-year contracts, all not signed.

    The grassroots, CA feels, are underfunded in Australia, so their plan was to use the extra money to invest in the juniors around the country, as well as expand their own media wing for better coverage of the game.

    The MoU from CA was going to, for the first time, include women and raise their salaries by more than 100 per cent, while the total allotment for player wages actually increased from $311 million to $419 million.

    With the large windfall expected from the Big Bash, the ACA and players were wary that the increase might not be enough if the current revenue sharing model was to be carried over.

    The move would have taken international women’s average pay from $79,000 to $179,000, while state-based women’s players could jump from $22,000 to $52,000.

    The revenue sharing model keeps percentages of income though, and based on the majority of money being made by the men’s team, they felt it was far from a good deal to protect everyone in Australian cricket.

    Mediation was then requested by the ACA but rejected by CA. On June 23, a new deal was sent by CA, allowing the fixed bonus to apply to all players – not just international ones – and sent contract offers to all players.

    It was immediately knocked back, with the players still not believing the deal was fair.

    Ellyse Perry batting Sydney Sixers WBBL

    AAP Image/Paul Miller

    The players are now unemployed – what next?
    There are three tours on the horizon, plus the upcoming ‘A’ tour of South Africa.

    Boycotts are the most likely course of action by the players. CA can’t afford that, but it’s been threatened and if the MoU isn’t worked out by Friday, the ‘A’ tour will be cancelled.

    Following that, the tour of Bangladesh, the ODI tour of India, and the Ashes could all be shelved.

    There has been talk the ACA will save the summer’s biggest tours by releasing the rights of players for short-term contracts, but it still doesn’t look positive.

    It’ll be a band-aid solution at best, and when the Ashes are over, it’s likely to be ripped off, with the pay dispute continuing.

    Essentially, the ACA will place the players up for hire to CA for a certain length of time for a certain amount of money on their terms.

    Players aren’t going to be continually given short-term contracts. It’s simply not a workable option and a new MoU, with a longer term deal – years in length – for the players must be worked out.

    As for domestic players, the base wage for a state player is reported to rise to $80,000 per year under the new MoU, but with the deadline now past, those state players – who undoubtedly don’t have bank accounts as healthy as the likes of David Warner and Steve Smith – may have a thinning resolve.

    This could lead to them beginning to sign fixed-wage, multi-year contracts with CA, no matter how much they want the revenue sharing model.

    Of course, that’s exactly what CA want. Given they have already gone past the deadline, the chance of them breaking their stance on a fixed wage contract now is slim. The lower-level players are far more likely to relent.

    Furthermore, players are looking at options overseas in T20 leagues and exhibition matches. It’s been strongly suggested by CA that bans of at least six months would be applied to players who participated during the Australian summer.

    Australias David Warner and Steve Smith


    Unpaid tour contracts
    I almost spat my breakfast across the table when I read Glenn Maxwell and Usman Khawaja, among others who were going to be unemployed, were being offered unpaid contracts to go to South Africa for the ‘A’ tour.

    In a desperate bid to keep the tour alive, CA – which was going to be almost a selection camp for the final spot on the Bangladesh tour, and likely to be a guide for the Indian tour, Ashes series and South African tour next year – offered the five national players a contract that would cover their accommodation, travel and insurance.

    This would ensure there was no ‘out of pocket’ expense to the players, but it was quickly shut down by the ACA, leaving the A tour with it’s Friday deadline as unlikely.

    No match payments was a direct slap in the face from Cricket Australia.

    Women’s team paid forward to the end of the World Cup – but then they join the rest
    The Australian women’s team have been slightly forgotten about in all this. They are currently playing in the World Cup and have been forward paid before the deadline by CA.

    But, like the men, they will be out of a job at the end of the tournament, which they are favourites to win.

    They have announced they will stand solid with the men – everyone is in this together, and they will not sign fixed wage contracts unless the ACA decides it’s the best thing for everything.

    Why doesn’t James Sutherland step in?
    An anonymous figure in this debate has been CA CEO James Sutherland, who has declined to get involved, despite the players calling for him to sit down with ACA CEO Alistair Nicholson.

    Sutherland has been in England for the women’s World Cup and returned just days before the deadline, but refused to get involved, instead letting his board drag it out to the penultimate time.

    CA’s head of strategy, Kevin Roberts, has instead done a majority of the negotiating, along with former Rio Tinto managing director David Peever.

    It goes without saying that Peever and Roberts have become key players in this. Peever has been chairman of Cricket Australia since October 2015, after a long stint with Rio Tinto, while Roberts was formerly an executive at Adidas.

    Peever was strongly against unions during his time at the mining giant, and it’s filtering through here in his dealings with the Cricketers Association. Unfortunately for him and his team, saying no to mining unions is a little easier than replacing Mitchell Starc or Steve Smith.

    At the end of the day, everyone thinks they are in the right, no one wants to admit they are in the wrong, and until someone comes to the table with that admission, this bitter and ridiculous dispute over a payment model will continue.

    And if the Ashes get cancelled – all hell will break lose.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,800 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.

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    The Crowd Says (76)

    • July 5th 2017 @ 5:58am
      James Pettifer said | July 5th 2017 @ 5:58am | ! Report

      Michael Clarke said that they had a similar issue previously on agreeing a MOU and just rolled forward the old one a year so that they could finalise negotiations.

      I assume the ACA would be happy with this (as it would keep the revenue sharing model working for at least another year) but then I assume that Cricket Australia wouldn’t be happy about this as the new broadcast rights would have been sold and announced by then.

      To me, this suggests that Cricket Australia expect to see an increase in right amounts (driven by the big bash) and don’t want to cough up the extra money or let the players know the new agreement before the negotiations are settled.

      Amazing to think that the ARU aren’t the sports body who are screwing up their game most in Australia

      • Roar Guru

        July 5th 2017 @ 8:55am
        Scott Pryde said | July 5th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        Hi James,

        I think that idea has been floated around a little bit, but neither party are willing to buy it at the moment. It’s more of a sideways step around the issue, and given neither side are willing to budge we will do a 360 degree loop and end up at the same spot this time next year.

        And yes – that’s exactly what CA want. It’s just a shemozzle really.

      • July 5th 2017 @ 9:26am
        Bob said | July 5th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        This dispute must be read through the lens of understanding that the ACA is a union and, as unions always do, are quite willing to destroy the golden goose if it means a few more dollars for them and their mafia mates. Have to side with CA on this one. Players are overpaid as it is. More money for grass roots is needed to help prop up the future of Australian cricket.

        • Roar Guru

          July 5th 2017 @ 1:59pm
          Matt H said | July 5th 2017 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

          You are only thinking about the top professional player Bob. The rest are not paid all that well, and certainly not well enough to compete with the AFL and NRL for talented youngsters.

        • Roar Guru

          July 5th 2017 @ 2:32pm
          Mango Jack said | July 5th 2017 @ 2:32pm | ! Report

          If you think they are overpaid, you must have some formula for determining what their fair pay should be?

          I’m with the players in this. They are entertainers, just like Justin Beiber and Adele. They are the ones playing the game, putting bums on seats, TVs on and revenue flowing. There is a direct link between their performance and CA revenue. I think it is perfectly reasonable for them to share in the revenue they generate.

          • July 5th 2017 @ 6:36pm
            Dave said | July 5th 2017 @ 6:36pm | ! Report


      • Roar Guru

        July 6th 2017 @ 2:08pm
        Gary Magpie said | July 6th 2017 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

        James, don’t be too harsh on the ARU, they’re still trying very hard to screw it up!

        But seriously, you touched on a real comparison. The ARU model has transitioned from a bottom-up association model of representation to a top-focussed commercial model. The players are contracted at the high level by a game that no longer provides support to the grassroots.

        So rather than ask why Cricket Australia is shying away from a profit sharing arrangement with players, maybe we should be asking why the ACA players are shying away from profit sharing with the grassroots. Or perhaps why should we support a bunch of players that aren’t that good earning salaries that most punters could only dream of earning…

    • July 5th 2017 @ 8:21am
      jameswm said | July 5th 2017 @ 8:21am | ! Report

      Why does Sutherland not get involved? Not his job? Doesn’t want his name associated with it?

      If he’s the top dog and this is the biggest issue for cricket administration for years – would it not make sense for him to be involved?

      Am I correct that SA, England and possibly India use the revenue sharing model? As do rugby union?

      Is it the case where CA want to be in control of everything?

      It is hard not to be cynical with a new TV rights deal about to be signed. Are CA trying to remove the players from a windfall? If it is going to be a high-paying TV deal – why do CA think cricket in Australia is worth so much? It’s not because of our players? And what are they intending to do with the excess money?

      CA is not a capitalistic business, it is more like a not for profit body. It is not there solely to maximise profit to itself.

      The big question is this – why did CA decide it needs to drop the revenue sharing model, which has everyone (players and administrators) working together?

      • Roar Guru

        July 5th 2017 @ 8:58am
        Scott Pryde said | July 5th 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

        Yeah, the confusing bit about Sutherland is that he has been involved in previous pay deals and is a very good negotiator – or that’s what I’ve read anyway. The players want to deal with him – he doesn’t want to deal with the players. But you’re right, it would make a lot of sense for him to get involved.

        I believe you’re correct. NBA and AFL I believe also use it – or are going to. It’s hard to understand why CA want to go the other way on the issue.

        The last sentence is the one that sticks. They believe it’s for grassroots cricket and a better distribution of funds. The players aren’t buying it.

        • July 5th 2017 @ 9:15am
          jameswm said | July 5th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          Who is?

          And thanks Scott for this summary article – I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of what the dispute is about. I think it’s been hard for people to answer, because not much information is being released.

          Why on earth would Sutherland want to stay away from the discussions? I don’t get that.

          And the big question – why does CA want to change the model? I think the players have some flexibility on percentages and where the money goes (ie more to grass roots), but the overall amount available to be paid to all players must be linked revenue.

          Did I also read that CA want to stop all contracted players playing in the IPL, or did I misread that?

          • Roar Guru

            July 5th 2017 @ 10:45am
            Scott Pryde said | July 5th 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report

            No worries James – as have I so in a lot of ways it was good to sit down and spend some serious time going over it all.

            And yes, but not the IPL – CA have threatened bans to anyone who participates in any ‘exhibition matches of overseas T20 tournaments when they are supposed to be playing for Australia’ – well, that’s how I read it anyway.

          • July 5th 2017 @ 2:24pm
            bill said | July 5th 2017 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

            I think its a fairly standard tactic – they’re not going to cave in so theirs no way you send in the front man until you have a deal.

            per comments above – their a not for profit – their not actually taking home anything extra here, no share holders are making more money by screwing the players. its money for the running of the game and the grass roots vs. letting the state squads have 14,15 people in them rolling in the cash.

            I’d wager cricket Australia would eb willing to let the shield go this year, but they wont let the big bash go – so whats going to happen then – that’s the real sticking point.

        • Roar Guru

          July 5th 2017 @ 10:33am
          Rellum said | July 5th 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

          He did sent out a threatening email once didn’t he? That’s getting involved by his standards.

          Edit: He also did a teary interview about how much the junior team he is coaching is struggling due to lack of funds.

          • July 5th 2017 @ 11:31am
            davros said | July 5th 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

            How long has been CEO…how long has he had to fix the grass roots …how much does he pay himself ? …crocodile tears !

    • July 5th 2017 @ 8:44am
      Hugo au Gogo said | July 5th 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      Thanks Scott. I wanted to comment but I have been overwhelmed by a massive headache. I need a Bex and a lie down.

      • Roar Guru

        July 5th 2017 @ 8:52am
        Scott Pryde said | July 5th 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        Believe me, I had a massive headache yesterday afternoon after filing this piece and making a number of edits and revisions. It’s just a terrible, terrible issue.

        Hopefully this puts it into perspective somewhat.

        • July 5th 2017 @ 9:55am
          nickbrisbane said | July 5th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          What about the rollover money that is still owed the players that the CA want to use for future salaries?

          • Roar Guru

            July 5th 2017 @ 2:01pm
            Matt H said | July 5th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

            Yep that one is a transparent money grab and I actually can’t see how it’s not a breach of the previous MOU.

            • July 5th 2017 @ 2:25pm
              bill said | July 5th 2017 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

              how is it a money grab? cricket Australia don’t actually get to keep the money – it doesn’t go to the share holders it goes into running the game.

              • July 6th 2017 @ 10:06am
                matth said | July 6th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

                You can’t tell someone “You know that money you earned last under an agreed contract? We just aren’t going give it to you after all”. How would you like it?

    • July 5th 2017 @ 10:00am
      BennO said | July 5th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      Is it fair to say the international players are sticking to what they believe will reward them and the state players best? That the CA offer will harm the state players and less than the internationals? I’m trying to figure out if there’s nobility in it and that will guide who I support (for the absolutely nothing that my support means).

      My perspective is that CA is probably working to keep costs of player payments at a manageable level and take more control over them. That’s fair enough and is what they would be expected to do.

      I have the impression that the players are acting in what they see as their own collective interest in a fair way (ie. the state players benefit along with the international players) but I’m not sure enough of the details to know that.

      • Roar Guru

        July 5th 2017 @ 10:37am
        Rellum said | July 5th 2017 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        They are just arguing on the type of model, we haven’t even seen them starting to talk about how much money should go where. The ACA have proposed a 22.5% to the players, 22.5% to grassroots and 55% to C.A. I personally think grassroots needs more than that. I have no idea what C.A. is actually going to spend on grassroots.

        Since other sports have a revenue share model, like US sports, or just signed one in regards to the AFL or are beginning to argue for one in regards to the NRL I can’t think that CA can keep saying that a revenue share model will not work in the current corporate climate.

        • July 5th 2017 @ 12:55pm
          BennO said | July 5th 2017 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

          Thanks mate .

        • July 5th 2017 @ 2:59pm
          Junior Coach said | July 5th 2017 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

          Why does CA need 55%? More jobs for the boys?

          • July 6th 2017 @ 5:56am
            Cliff (Bishkek) said | July 6th 2017 @ 5:56am | ! Report

            A very good point that has been raised on other threads and other articles on this topic in the Roar. Where does the 55% get spent???

    • July 5th 2017 @ 10:09am
      Fred said | July 5th 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      Scott, Your articles tend to make a lot of sense, and this one’s no different.

      What I take from it is CA’s determination to wrest back control form the players by putting them on fixed salaries determined by the board rather than have them share in whatever revenue they are able to generate. It’s the age old question of intellectual property and market worth that has had players at loggerheads with the board since the early 20th century, for instance, Victor Trumper et al’s stance.

      Whatever your views on how much they’re paid, I think they’re entitled to be paid in accordance with whatever value the market places on their worth, and that’s precisely what the revenue share model does. The alternative require a lot of trust to be put in CA in respect of how they will spend increased revenues, and ACA nor many others (Ian Chappell included), believe they are capable of achieving the right result. CA’s bloated corporate structure suggest they will feather their own pockets before properly running the game.

      • Roar Guru

        July 5th 2017 @ 10:47am
        Scott Pryde said | July 5th 2017 @ 10:47am | ! Report

        Thanks Fred – appreciate the kind words.

        But yep, you’re 100 per cent right. They are absolutely entitled to a percentage of the revenue they generate, rather than a fixed wage.

      • Roar Guru

        July 5th 2017 @ 2:02pm
        Matt H said | July 5th 2017 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

        CA employee numbers have doubled since the last MOU was signed.

    • Roar Guru

      July 5th 2017 @ 10:50am
      The Bush said | July 5th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

      The whole thing has been very, very confusing.

      Firstly, if Sutherland is the CEO, isn’t he the one paid to actually do work? Why are Board members doing work? You never hear about a board member doing all the work at Google or Apple or whatever; it’s always the (paid to do so) CEO doing all the work. It’s all truly bizarre.

      It’s hard to understand what exactly Sutherland contributes these days.

      The second thing is why CA have so fundamentally failed to explain why they want to change the set up? They’ve made noises that it is to do with wanting to fund the grass roots more, but that doesn’t seem to stack up. If so, why not just keep this model, but decrease the percentage offered to the players. This doesn’t even seem to be discussed.

      Then you need to keep in background the recent noises that cricket is over valued in this country. It’s hard to see how there’s this giant pay day around the corner if the current TV deal is actually over valued… And if it is over valued, it’s hard to understand why the player would be fighting so hard to keep a revenue sharing deal of what is about to become (apparently) a smaller pie.

      Then finally, why are CA refusing to mediate the thing (with professional mediators, not Chapelli….). I struggle to understand how they’ve really tried to settle the issue if they haven’t even mediated. The fact they haven’t even mediated prior to the MoU expiring is, in itself, unbelieve…

      • Roar Guru

        July 5th 2017 @ 2:04pm
        Matt H said | July 5th 2017 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

        Because you have to remember that CA’s other objective here is to divide the players and smash ACA as a collective bargaining power. It’s not different than the mining houses’ tactics with unions.

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