The Key Players
Before we get started on the timeline for the pay dispute, it is essential to know who the people behind the controversy are. The problem resides between two parties, Cricket Australia, the branch that controls and organizes cricket in Australia, and the Australian Cricketers’ Association, which is exactly what the name suggests.
First, we have CA Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland, who has largely been unwilling to directly intervene in negotiations but has been working behind the scenes to push CA’s agenda. There is lead negotiator for CA, Kevin Roberts, who is also its Executive General Manager. He is considered to be Sutherland’s successor as chief of CA. On the other side, ACA Chief Alistair Nicholas has been negotiating to resolve the dispute along with senior members of the men’s cricket team including David Warner and Steve Smith. David Peever of CA and Greg Dyer of the ACA, Chairmen of their respective bodies, also played a big role in the deal.
The Rift Then
It all started back in 1997 when the ACA was formed. Players from all across the world wrote to the Australian Cricket Board (ACB), which is what CA was then called, regarding the formation of the ACA as a representative for negotiations about improved contracts for domestic players. At a time when the popularity of the game was seeing a drastic surge, the cash flowed into the ACBs bank accounts. The stars of Australian cricket were paid well, but the domestic cricketers were sorely wanting for more, often holding a part-time job to support themselves, reports ABC Australia.
The solution? A model that gives the players an approximate 26% share of the revenue made by the ACB. Amidst growing viewership of the sport, then chairman of the ACB Denis Rodgers professed his faith in Australia’s cricketers by giving them a piece of the revenue cake.
Since then, relations between the ACB/CA and the ACA have taken a downturn. Members of the CA board such as Chairman David Peever expressed their reluctance to negotiate with a ‘third party’ like the ACA, preferring to deal with the players directly. ESPNcricinfo has reported that ever since Nicholas replaced Paul Marsh as chief of the ACA, he has been “kept at arm’s length”, rarely ever dealing with Sutherland or Peever directly. CA also branded the ACA as the “opposition party” more than once.
CA has attempted to contact players directly on several occasions, bypassing the ACA regarding the contract dispute. In response, Steve Smith and Meg Lanning, the captains of the men’s and women’s teams, signed a letter asking them to refrain from pursuing such measures in the future as it interferes with the players’ preparations for matches.
The Rift Now
Fast forward to 2016, CA officials started pushing a proposal to scrap the earlier revenue-sharing arrangement that was agreed upon in ’97, citing reasons such as wanting better pay for women cricketers and investing more heavily in grassroots cricket. The alternative that the CA wanted was a decided minimum amount that cricketers would be paid, and only international cricketers would enjoy benefits from revenue surpluses. So the national team players would be given a fixed wage whereas the international players would be paid in wages plus revenue surpluses.
In March 2017, the CA presented its proposal to the ACA for consideration, one which they later rebuffed in April. The deal offered promised a payment of $419 million to all players over five years, an upgrade from the $311 million from the existing agreement. The ACA was also offered a 22.5% revenue share for players in what they called a “modernized” deal. The offer was turned on the grounds of it being disrespectful to domestic players, who are an integral part of Australian cricket. The players were willing to accept less pay under the revenue sharing model if it meant equity between the domestic and international players. With the BBL’s revenue agreements set to be renegotiated in a deal that would bring three times more money to the CA, the factor must have played a huge role in the decision as well.
Things Take a Turn For The Worse
In May, two major things happened. The players requested independent mediation in the conflict between the two bodies in an attempt to resolve the situation with the Ashes and a tour to Bangladesh coming up in the near future.
This request was turned down by the CA, who justified it by saying that the ACA had refused to negotiate fairly so far. Instead, they attempted to contact the players directly once again to make their case and suggested arbitration as an alternative later in July.
The second major development was Sutherland threatening the Australian players with unemployment if they refused to sign the proposal presented to them in what was seen as a drastic pressure tactic by the CA. The ACA stuck to their guns, maintaining the need for the revenue-sharing model’s continued existence.
Cricket Australia also announced a $33 million loss from the BBL, using it as a bargaining chip to justify a fixed pay model for domestic players in “uncertain times”, a proclamation that former veteran batsman Simon Katich wholeheartedly disputed, saying that the claim calls for an independent investigation considering the growth that the league has seen in recent times.
Talks did not progress much in June as both sides refused negotiated agreeable grounds for a deal. In June, players boycotted an Australia A tour in an attempt to send out a clear signal to the CA: listen to us, or we won’t play for you. It was slow going once again for the rest of July, with several meetings being held after the sides missed the June 30 deadline. Finally, on 3rd August, the two bodies announced a breakthrough in negotiations which would enable the players to resume playing for their respective sides.
While only an in-principle agreement according to the official CA website, it at least temporarily and maybe permanently resolves the issue as the CA and ACA further negotiate the nitty-gritty of the agreement, which retains the revenue-sharing model and establishes greater investment into grassroots cricket and an increase in wages for all players.
With this, the Australian tour to Bangladesh, and more importantly the Ashes are back on track. This is great news for cricket in general, for both fans and players. Hopefully, we can now put all of this behind us and get on with the game.
Now that the dispute seems resolved, who do you think is to blame for the nightmare both sides have endured? Let us know in the comments below.
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