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Friday, June 30, 2017
Cricket Australia Stand-Off Reaches Doomsday
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Congratulations to both Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) on their inability to come to terms before today on a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in regards to the payment structure of players and cricket at all levels. As anyone with half an ear on the news would know, the five year previous MoU ran out today, meaning that both parties have had five years to ensure they came to a new agreement before today. And that couldn't be achieved.
People's views and perspectives on the whole issue will differ, but let's look at the surface. Back in the late 1990's Australia's cricketers decided they needed to stand up and form a union of sorts in order to negotiate better terms for themselves from the Australian Cricket Board. The 18 month impasse of bitching back and forth, with the ACB launching a very public campaign looking to make the players look greedy by publishing their earnings, also came with a threat that international matches could be forfeited by a strike by the players. It was all very nasty and should have been handled better, except that the ACB wanted to keep the status quo where they controlled all the finances and only handed out what they deemed the players were worthy, while the players union, headed by Tim May, was trying to ensure that players at all levels received worthy remuneration and could forge a living through cricket, and therefore allowing these players to dedicate themselves completely to the game, and therefore in theory become better players and improve Australian cricket in general. Once the smoke had cleared, the ACA had secured a landmark agreement with the ACB, allowing for 25% of the ACB's revenue streams to go to the players, meaning they had become active partners in the promotion and success of Australian cricket.
Following this, Australia became the greatest cricketing nation on the planet, for arguably ten years as their best players dominated the world, and their first class compatriots pushed them hard by scoring runs and taking wickets. Without the MoU that was secured, would players of the talent of Martin Love and Brad Hodge - as an example - have continued to play cricket? Their talents deserved recognition at the highest level, but they were unable to break into the national team due to the immense talent that was available. However, if they had been playing for peanuts at Shield level, as they would have been before the initial MoU was brokered, would they have continued to play and keep the pressure on those above them? More than likely, they would have moved out of cricket into a career that paid them more than just $1,000 match payments. The MoU kept them in the game, and as such kept Australia's cricket strong and the envy of the world.
The three further re-negotiations of the MoU, every five years, has retained the concept of the 25% income flow to the players, with very little angst from either side of the pond. So why now, with Australian cricket on the cusp of a resurgence in the men's game, with the Big Bash League drawing in hundreds of thousand to matches and therefore huge cash flow, and with the women's game coming to national prominence and increasing audiences, has CA decided they want to rock the boat and not only change the formula that has worked so well, but do so in what appears to be a belligerent way? What exactly has changed?
The answer is - CA has changed its structure, bringing in businessmen rather than State board representatives, and they want their money back.
CA until five years ago was built by nominations from the State Associations. They acted in what they believed was the best interests of Australia cricket. They weren't always considered to be right, but the period of resurgence through the 1990's and 2000's gave them great heart. Then came the restructure, and that system was thrown out with the Argus Report review, and now we have a board that has some cricket lovers retained, but now also has men and women who made their names in big business, such as David Peever, former Managing Director of Rio Tinto, Bob Every, former Chairman of Wesfarmers and Boral, and Michelle Tredenick, a Director of the Bank of Queensland. These people simply don't like dealing with unions - something Peever in particular has been quite happy to admit. They'd rather talk face to face with the individuals, hoping to divide opinion and in the long run get what they want rather than what the union may want. Bringing on board Kevin Roberts, former NSW batsman but also has been involved in reformations of companies such as Adidas, Colorado and Canterbury, as chief negotiator, CA has come to the party with a corporate mindset. They are gathering the profit streams, and they want to be able to dish them out as they see fit, and not just give a percentage to what they see as a union.
The ACA and the players of course want the current scenario to continue. They see it as having been a success, and cannot see why it should be changed given the success they see that it has brought.
So we have come to this point - as far back as November last year it was obviously this was going to end up being a problem, when CA tried to negotiate with the players at the top, including captains Steve Smith and Meg Lanning, while the players all rebuffed these approaches and insisted all negotiations should go through the ACA, Which CA continued to refuse to do. At different times James Sutherland and Pat Howard have also thrown in their opinion that the payers need to make the changes they were suggesting. It honestly came across as employer bullying at its worst.
It is all very nasty and should have been handled better, except that CA wants to go Back to the Future where they control all the finances and only hand out what they deem the players are worthy, while the players union, headed by Alistair Nicholson, is trying to ensure that players at all levels receive worthy remuneration and can forge a living through cricket, and therefore allowing these players to dedicate themselves completely to the game, and therefore in theory become better players and improve Australian cricket in general. Does this sound familiar at all?
As I said, opinions will vary. Despite CA suggesting they need the funds to better remunerate grassroots cricket, it comes across as a money grab. It's a big business attitude. It just feels like they think they can out-wait the ACA and get what they want, because the players will not want to kill off their own employment. They say the ACA has not entered negotiations, but given the ACA believes the current MoU terms are working, why would they negotiate that away? They have agreed in principle to lower the stream of revenue from 25% to 22.5% as well as taking out revenue from Milo cricket and club registrations. They have also shown they are putting $33 million back into grass roots cricket themselves. CA has simply refused to accept anything except the dissolvement of the current 25% of revenue going to the players. It's a rort.
So where to now? The whole debacle makes both sides look bad no matter which way you look at it. The possible forfeiture of the A tour to South Africa, or worse the now off again but on again tour to Bangladesh, is a very bad look for Australian cricket. And yet, no matter how many people come out and slag off the cricketers, suggesting they earn too much and they have it so much better than anyone else and that they should just accept the huge money CA is offering them, is not seeing the big picture. A corporate employee is trying to entice the elite employees with more money, so that they can end up having to pay less to the lower class employees and inevitably keep more money in their own pockets, without actually having to divulge how much money they think they will earn over the next five years. By doing this they claim to be doing it for the little guys, the grass roots, who they promise they will send more money to as a result of their ideas. It all smacks of absolute bullshit, and the players know it. As much as I want to see this resolved and our cricketers back doing what they should be doing, this looks like it has a very long way to go before that occurs, and the fate of the Ashes looks to be doomed as a result.
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