Cricket Australia are running out of time, and they know it

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    After months of posturing, claims and counterclaims, Cricket Australia is looking to bring the current pay dispute to a head.

    In a break from its previous policy of containing the dispute as best as possible behind closed doors, CA went public yesterday. Very public.

    CEO James Sutherland held a hastily convened al fresco media conference at which he laid out CA’s plan to resolve the stand-off.

    He was blunt and to the point: “What we’re proposing out of this is that we do go into some intensive discussions over the next few days that will hopefully see the matter come to resolution. Failing that, we believe that the best course of action is to get the matter resolved through arbitration, get the show on the road and move on.”

    Sadly, the show has been on the road for many months now – a rocky, potholed and poorly signposted one.

    The ACA’s response last night to Sutherland’s plan was to say arbitration was “adversarial” – hardly a glowing endorsement.

    For CA, time is now an imperative with potentially crippling financial issues on the horizon.

    Doubtless, CA believed it would have won this battle a fair while ago but the players have held firm and refused to buckle.

    But, on the cusp of August, CA can no longer risk this dragging out any longer.

    Cricket’s two free-to-air rights holders need to go the marketplace to secure advertisers for the international fixtures and Big Bash.

    The Nine and Ten networks need certainty. Time is now of the essence.

    And on the horizon before the Australian summer is next month’s Test tour of Bangladesh and a one-day series in India in October – both of which hold significant ramifications for CA should they not go ahead.

    Australia has not played a Test in Bangladesh since Jason Gillespie’s famed double century in April 2006.

    Australia was programmed to play two Tests in Bangladesh in October 2015 however the series was postponed.

    In June, CA announced it was prepared to go next month.

    Another no-show would be a major slap in the face to Bangladeshi cricket and the country in general.

    Social media on the sub-continent has been rife with suggestions that the pay deal would be finalised after the proposed tour as the players do not wish to travel to Bangladesh and they are holding out because of that.

    The reasoning is fanciful but it is another indicator of how the Australian team is viewed in that part of the world.

    Of greater concern is the financial maelstrom that would be predicated on a cancellation of the ODI tour to India.

    If there is one bear that you do not want to poke in the cricketing world, it is the BCCI.

    When West Indies cut short its tour of India in October 2014 over an internal pay dispute, leaving several fixtures abandoned, the BCCI did not take kindly to the snub.

    It sent the WICB a bill for US$42m, stating it was liable for the cancellation of the tour and the associated financial damage the decision had wrought.

    At the time of India all but suing the WICB it had just declared a US$5m loss and was on the cusp of bankruptcy. India withdrew its claim.

    CA faces no such financial pressures, and as such, the BCCI would likely be far less tolerant should Australia be a no-show.

    To get the sport back on the park and avert potential series cancellations, CA has effectively offered to roll over contracts under the previous MoU as it entered arbitration should it get to that point.

    Male players would be offered short-term contracts under the recently lapsed pay model while women would be paid under CA’s recently proposed model.

    While those contracts are running, a new MoU would be designed and signed.

    Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland and chairman Wally Edwards

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    This would clear the way for the tours to Bangladesh and India to go ahead and save the Ashes series.

    While the ACA sought mediation two months ago, arbitration is a different process.

    Where the ACA had hoped to have a neutral third-party assist talks in the hope of finding an agreed resolution, CA’s arbitration suggestion would see both parties present testimony and give evidence to an arbitrator, in a manner similar to a court, but in a less formal fashion.

    Given the gulf that has existed between the warring parties, Sutherland’s planned “intensive discussions over the next few days” are unlikely to bear fruit.

    It will then be up to the ACA to decide whether to accept the offer of arbitration.

    Sutherland indicated that CA’s preferred arbitrator is “someone like a retired Supreme Court judge” rather than the Fair Work Commission, the country’s official industrial relations arbiter.

    The ACA would need to agree to such an umpire.

    Some of Sutherland’s comments yesterday are likely to draw ire from the ACA.

    His assertion that “we seem to be bogged down at times in process and strategies that are perhaps designed to slow things down” will be seen as a red rag by the ACA.

    As too, will his comment, “I have had increasing concerns just about whether everyone is going at the same pace and is dealing with this issue with the same level of urgency.”

    Given 230 players have been unemployed since 1 July, the ACA may disagree.

    Sutherland reiterated several times yesterday that CA would accept the arbitrator’s decision.

    Firstly, we have to wait and see whether he will actually be called into play.

    CA has taken the ACA by surprise with this latest proposal.

    The ball, to a large degree, is now in its court.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (118)

    • Roar Rookie

      July 28th 2017 @ 7:46am
      The Magic Man said | July 28th 2017 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      I don’t know who is in the right here, but it seems like a battle for control. The clear damage both parties are doing to the game, and the potential ongoing damage that could be done if this ridiculous dispute continues will forever be unforgivable.

      • July 28th 2017 @ 10:34pm
        deccas said | July 28th 2017 @ 10:34pm | ! Report

        Based of CA’s history and the nature of the sticking point for negotiations (revenue sharing) I think the players are solidly in the right.

    • Roar Guru

      July 28th 2017 @ 7:47am
      Michael Keeffe said | July 28th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      While I don’t think either side has handled this particularly well, it would seem to me that the onus needs to be on Cricket Australia and James Sutherland to fix this situation. Obviously as fans we don’t have access to the information in the proposals each side have put forward but it seems like CA are the one’s wanting to significantly change from what has been the status quo for the past 20 years. Given that, one might have thought they would have been a little less bullish and aggressive through the negotiation period to try and persuade rather than bully the players into change. Argue the need for change a little more rather than try and force it. Maybe they just thought the players would fold.

      Either way no one is coming out smelling like roses in this, James Sutherland more so than anyone. Once the players are scoring runs and taking wickets against the Poms I think the fans will forgive and forget when it comes to the players, not sure the same can be said about the administrators.

      • July 28th 2017 @ 8:21am
        AGO74 said | July 28th 2017 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        I’m not one to defend sporting administrators as they are usually only one rung below referees in the category of people in sport we like to bag out – but perhaps it is the cricketers who are being over the top in expectations? Otherwise why would sutherland suggest arbitration?

        Going to arbitration is clearly a big risk for both camps but for one camp to come out so clearly in favour of it suggests that it is reasonably confident it will get an outcome more aligned to their views of how the pay deal should be structured than the cricketers.

        • July 28th 2017 @ 10:05am
          jameswm said | July 28th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

          “Otherwise why would sutherland suggest arbitration”

          Because he’s desperate. Right now he is stuck with accepting the players’ model if he wants to send a team to India. If it goes to arbitration, there’s a chance he will win.

          • July 28th 2017 @ 11:52am
            James said | July 28th 2017 @ 11:52am | ! Report

            He is only stuck with it if the ACA refuses to change and CA does change. Thats not how negotiations work.

            • July 28th 2017 @ 12:57pm
              matth said | July 28th 2017 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

              The ACA have been pushing for mediation for many months.

              • July 28th 2017 @ 1:26pm
                Mark said | July 28th 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

                Mediation and arbitration are two very different things

          • July 28th 2017 @ 12:59pm
            AGO74 said | July 28th 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

            He may be desperate – but as I also said ” …… for one camp to come out so clearly in favour of it suggests that it is reasonably confident it will get an outcome more aligned to their views of how the pay deal should be structured than the cricketers. ”

            There is a risk in going to arbitration but clearly it is a risk he/CA are willing to take.

            • July 28th 2017 @ 1:32pm
              Mark said | July 28th 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

              It also shifts the dynamic of the debate in the court of public opinion.

              If the players refuse, their credibility of taking their stand for some ‘greater good’ will be shot and it will be near impossible for them to shift blame to CA for the cancellation of tours. Only the union stooges who think CA should just give the players whatever they want will still blame CA.

              It’s a very bold, smart move by CA. Not without risk, but they have totally backed the players into a corner.

              • Roar Guru

                July 28th 2017 @ 2:01pm
                Rellum said | July 28th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

                I guess you must have thought the same thing when CA refused to entertain Mediation months ago. You know credibility shot and all that.

                CA were not remotely interested in talking until a week or so ago and now they are suddenly talking arbitration looks more desperation and a blatant tactic rather than having any real goal of settling the issue in a way where all the stake holders can move forward.

              • July 28th 2017 @ 7:16pm
                Mark said | July 28th 2017 @ 7:16pm | ! Report

                It seems some people here don’t know the difference between mediation and arbitration. Google is your friend.

                Arbitration is the ultimate approach to settle a dispute. Let an independent party decide the outcome and everyone accepts the result. Mediation is a waste of time when the parties are as far apart as they are in this case.

              • Roar Guru

                July 28th 2017 @ 8:14pm
                Rellum said | July 28th 2017 @ 8:14pm | ! Report

                You don’t seem keen to listen or understand. It is not the Mediation or the arbitration, it is that CA have never really been keen to sit down and sort this out.

              • July 28th 2017 @ 10:39pm
                deccas said | July 28th 2017 @ 10:39pm | ! Report

                Imagine thinking its appropriate to refuse mediation and go straight to arbitration, and being unimpressed with that means youre a pinko.

                Like, imagine.

              • July 29th 2017 @ 4:23pm
                Mark said | July 29th 2017 @ 4:23pm | ! Report


                Party 1 puts forward a concrete proposal to bring a definitive end to the dispute.

                Party 2 refuses it.

                But some people want us to believe it’s Party 1 dragging on this dispute.

                How stupid do they think the average punter is.

                The facts are, CA is as entitled to take a bargaining position and stick to it as the ACA is. The fact neither has moved is no more the fault of CA as it is the ACA. Up to now, only CA has put forward a proposal to bring the dispute to a definitive end.

    • July 28th 2017 @ 8:17am
      The Fatman said | July 28th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      For there to be cricket played again in Australia, EVER AGAIN, Cricket Australia have to accept that the cricketers are joint partners and that Revenue Sharing is agreed to in the MOU.

      Without that agreement by CA, there will be no cricket played!!

      No arbitration or political games by CA. They have to accept what the cricketers want.

      The cricketers are the product.

      • July 28th 2017 @ 9:57pm
        Bill said | July 28th 2017 @ 9:57pm | ! Report

        The cricketers are not the product. 100 years of tradition are the product. The current mob are no hopers who don’t realise how good they have it

      • Roar Guru

        July 29th 2017 @ 9:39am
        Ryan H said | July 29th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        Yep I see this as the only way that some cricket can actually be played in the short term. For this to reach a resolution, it was always going to take one party to swallow their pride and go down. At this stage it looks like it will be CA, as the group of players seem completely dissatisfied yet united and not buckling any time soon.

    • July 28th 2017 @ 8:26am
      Whiteline said | July 28th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      Hopefully this process finishes this debacle off. The players are just spruiking the ACA line. Remember, the ACA is run by someone has has no personal investment in the game and is only after the best result for the players…more money.
      That’s why this has dragged on.

      Why would CA fold to something which is fundamentally wrong? That is probably why they are happy for arbitration…I know which way the smart money would be on.

      Finally, with the DRS (Dyer Review System) pulling the strings behind the scenes, pretty hard to believe anything the ACA promotes.

    • Roar Guru

      July 28th 2017 @ 9:03am
      JamesH said | July 28th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      I’m interested to know how CA expects arbitration to work in this situation. An arbitrator is supposed to determine a dispute based on evidence presented by the parties and any applicable laws or industry standards. It seems to me that this dispute isn’t about right or wrong; it’s about each party trying to get its desired slice of the pie. There is no ‘correct’ payment model to use in this instance.

      • July 28th 2017 @ 9:09am
        Whiteline said | July 28th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

        JamesH….you are correct. CA will have a proposal about the whole of cricket…ACA just about maintaining the status quo because…’s like the 38 hour week for them, too good to be true.
        The rhetoric around ACA helping grassroots is just that, they are set up to represent professional cricketers and that is all.

    • July 28th 2017 @ 9:14am
      The Fatman said | July 28th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

      Players are partners not employees. That is the simple driver here. Cricket Australia need to understand that.

      Until they do, then nothing will be solved..

      It is the players that do all the work and are actually the product.

      Look at American sports; the NBA, the MLB, the NFL.

      Each sport needs it’s professional top level participants as partners not employees. It can’t work any other way.

      The players are partners in those sports in every decision made.

      Cricket Australia are out of line and old fashioned in their ideas when the rest of the sporting World and all other administrations of all other sporting codes are moving in the exact opposite direction from CA thinking and philosophies.

      This is going to be a long battle until Cricket Australia understands that.

      • July 28th 2017 @ 2:17pm
        johnnie said | July 28th 2017 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

        The American sports are a fantastic example of a model totally different to the Australian cricket model, thanks for the dorothy dixer.

        Neither the NBA, MLB nor the NFL (and let’s add NHL for the sake of the argument) is responsible for the administration of their respective sports at all levels, such as grassroots. They are leagues only, responsible for running the league, and nothing else. They are, in effect, entertainment companies. They have nothing to do with local sport, school sport, or club sport.

        So, thanks for demonstrating why CA, as a governing body for the conduct of a sport at all levels across the country, is right not to copy the employee remuneration model from those leagues.

        • July 28th 2017 @ 3:51pm
          The Fatman said | July 28th 2017 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

          the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL all do look after grass roots of their sports.

          For Example; The NFL spend 3% of all revenue on junior development.

          It is called NFL Rush.

          • July 31st 2017 @ 10:52am
            johnnie said | July 31st 2017 @ 10:52am | ! Report

            You can’t be serious? Not only have you not commented on MLB, NBA and NHL (which I will infer as conceding I’m correct), but “junior development” is purely pathway high performance spend. NFL Rush is just a website targeted at kids!

            Grass roots means facility maintenance and upgrades, officials, national insurance coverage for all players, in2cricket, school & university sports, and the list goes on. NONE of those Yankee sports fund any of that. Hence my argument that the lazy ACA Keeping up with the Jones mentality of copying the American sports’ rev share model is simply ill-considered and nonsensical in the context of Australian cricket.

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