Australian cricket’s unseemly pay dispute has been going on for quite sometime now. Negotiations have failed and it is becoming more and more difficult to achieve a win-win situation for the parties.
The Australia A tour of South Africa has already been cancelled by the ACA(Australian Cricketers’ Association) because of the absence of a new Memorandum of Understanding.
If not handled well by the concerned parties, more upcoming tours of Australia could take a hit.
What is the dispute about?
The crux of the matter has less to do with the dollar value being paid to the professionals but the payment strategy associated with it.
For the last 20 years, the revenue earned by Australian Cricket has been shared between the board and the international and domestic male players.
The share of these contracted players is up to 27% of the net revenue. This model has been considered a fair way of distribution as the players are held accountable for the revenue.
This means that if cricket is flourishing in Australia, the players are paid more and if it is in a turmoil then their pay will be reduced and they will share the risk with the board.
But problems are plenty as Cricket Australia has made its intention clear to change the existing model of revenue based sharing.
The proposal that they have made is that only the highest rank male players and some top level female players will be made a part of the revenue sharing and all the other domestic players will receive fixed wages which will be incremented gradually over the period of 5 years, thus cutting them out of the revenue based system.
They have claimed that the domestic players do not really contribute to the revenue, but only the players at the highest level play a role in revenue earned.
According to Cricket Australia, the fixed wages that they have offered to the domestic players is far more than what they receive from the existing model.
In fact the total allotment for player wages actually increased from $311 million to $419 million.
The reason to change the existing model is that they feel that the grassroots (i.e. clubs and schools) of cricket are underfunded and they want to invest more of the revenue in order to develop the current facilities.
Another basis for change is that by cutting off the male domestic players from the revenue model, they will be able to pay higher wages to the female players by giving them a 150% pay hike.
On the flip side, the players think that Cricket Australia is not completely trustworthy on this regard and they are trying to bully them to accept the fixed wages.
Some believe that Cricket Australia is on the verge of signing a huge broadcasting deal and the success of the Big Bash League, would bring in a lot of revenue.
Considering this deal, it would be more logical and beneficial to get a part of the revenue which is rocketing now, rather than agreeing to a fixed salary.
The proposed model is highly favourable to the star players of the Australian Cricket Team as it would mean that only they will get a piece of the revenue pie.
But in Australia all the players are a part of a union called Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA). They mutually believe that this model is unfair to the domestic players and so they have publicly opposed it.
Instead, they want to bring the women players also into the revenue sharing model.
The model that the ACA has proposed gives the players 22.5% of the revenue, 22.5% allotment to the grassroots and 55% of the share to be owned by Cricket Australia.
What lies ahead?
As of now, more than 200 players are unemployed and the future is uncertain. There are three upcoming tours, the tour of Bangladesh, the ODI tour of India and the Ashes.
It’s uncertain how the players will retaliate but right now boycotting tours seems to be most likely.
The ACA has sent a strong message to the CA by cancelling the Australia A tour to South Africa, making them know that they are prepared to take extreme steps if they see no progress towards resolving the current dispute.
The last thing CA would want is cancellation of tours. There are talks that Cricket Australia for the time being would release the rights of players for short term contracts.
But short-term contracts are not feasible and it is inevitable that a MoU would have to be worked out for the long-term.
The dispute has undoubtedly attracted a lot of attention from the retired greats of Australian Cricket and many have voiced their opinions.
The former Australian test wicketkeeper Ian Healy has said that, “It’s terrible that both sides haven’t had these sorts of arguments and engagement about a year ago. When anyone brings such big change into any business, you’ve got to consult.
And the consultancy should have began a year ago.”
Former Australia captain Michael Clarke has suggested to carry over the existing MoU for 12 months to allow players to return to work while an agreement is worked out.
“I think what needs to happen is keep the current MOU for the next 12 months, and allow the players to get back to what (they) do best – train, prepare, get ready for some important cricket,” he stated.
While all this is happening, the Australian women’s team have been performing extremely well at the World Cup.
They have been paid in advance before the deadline. But like their male counterparts, they will soon be unemployed after the completion of the world cup.
They stand united with the men and have declared that they will only sign the fixed wage contracts if the ACA thinks it’s advantageous for everyone.
As cricket fans we hope this mess gets resolved promptly and the focus is shifted back to the game.