Pay dis­pute sees Cricket Aus­tralia ‘fall off the cliff’

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

SYD­NEY: Of­ten stuck for days wilt­ing un­der a hot sun, Aus­tralia’s crick­eters are well known for their dry hu­mour.

It’s no sur­prise then that, as play­ers and the sport’s na­tional gov­ern­ing body fell “off a cliff ” over a pay dis­pute that sees hun­dreds of pro­fes­sional crick­eters start the week un­em­ployed, some of the coun­try’s crick­eters have still found time to joke.

First there was all-rounder Daniel Chris­tian, a Vic­to­ria and Aus­tralian rep­re­sen­ta­tive wish­ing his com­pa­tri­ots good luck with an up­com­ing ca­reer change to foot­ball.

“Last con­tract free gap for an­other five years, so make the most of it,” he tweeted cheek­ily.

Then Aus­tralian top-or­der bats­man, Us­man Khawaja, posted a pic­ture of him­self online, log­ging on to one of the coun­try’s most pop­u­lar job­seek­ing web­sites, ac­com­pa­nied by the words: “Just check­ing my op­tions.”

But, there can be no doubt that it’s gal­lows hu­mour in what has been an ugly, ninemonth pay dis­pute with the coun­try’s na­tional gov­ern­ing body, Cricket Aus­tralia (CA).

At is­sue is ‘rev­enue­shar­ing,’ a pay­ments sys­tem that Aus­tralia’s top crick­eters ne­go­ti­ated for them­selves nearly 20 years ago and which CA would now like to do away with.

Un­der the model, all prof­its earned are shared by the coun­try’s state-level and in­ter­na­tional crick­eters.

It has seen Aus­tralia’s top stars, like Steve Smith and David Warner, earn up­wards of $768 000 (about R10m) an­nu­ally.

CA say that do­ing away with the plan would mean more money di­rected at grass­roots level. The play­ers ar­gue that there is plenty of money in the pot and no need to move away from a part­ner­ship model that sees them get 24.5 per­cent of rev­enue.

At stake is po­ten­tially hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars, as TV rights money for Aus­tralia’s T20 league con­tin­ues to grow. Cov­er­age of the Big Bash is sold all around the world, with one lo­cal TV chan­nel ru­moured to be will­ing to pay $800m to se­cure the rights from a com­peti­tor.

“It is a sig­nif­i­cant water­shed mo­ment in Aus­tralian cricket,” said Alis­tair Ni­chol­son, the CEO of the union rep­re­sent­ing the play­ers.

“We’re very keen to have a model that is con­nected to the rev­enues of the game.

“What rev­enues they are, what per­cent­age that is, who’s el­i­gi­ble for it – that’s some­thing that we’re al­ways open to dis­cussing and we just haven’t been able to get to a de­tailed con­ver­sa­tion around that.”

The play­ers’ union says that af­ter talks stalled, they asked CA for me­di­a­tion twice, but were re­fused. They also say that the gov­ern­ing body’s CEO, James Suther­land, should be present at the ne­go­ti­a­tions, but has failed to pitch.

“The cur­rent rev­enue share model has cre­ated some un­fore­seen is­sues for the broader game,” said CA GM Kevin Roberts in a short film pro­duced by the association ex­plain­ing the new model.

“The rev­enue-shar­ing model gives (CA) very lit­tle flex­i­bil­ity to ad­dress the chang­ing land­scape of our game,” Roberts added.

While there is still some way to go un­til Novem­ber, when the Ashes be­tween Eng­land and Aus­tralia is sched­uled to be­gin, a planned Tour of South Africa by the Aus­tralia ‘A’ team is now very likely to not go ahead.

Khawaja, who was set to cap­tain the tour from Fri­day, says the play­ers want to play, but they first need to see some progress in ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“We, ob­vi­ously, do want to play, but un­til the key is­sues are re­solved, it’s go­ing to be tough from our end,” he said on Sun­day.

“You get in­vited to play on any tour for Aus­tralia and you ei­ther ac­cept that in­vi­ta­tion or you don’t.

“As a team, at the mo­ment, we have not ac­cepted that in­vi­ta­tion.” – dpa

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