Pay dispute sees Cricket Australia ‘fall off the cliff’
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