ACA unveils fund for 'vulnerable' women, domestic players
Australia's players are preparing for a long, cold and out-of-contract winter, with the Australian Cricketers' Association unveiling plans for a contingency fund to help female and domestic players avoid financial difficulty in the event of the stalled MOU talks with Cricket Australia (CA) not progressing before the June 30 deadline.
On the day Australia's squad for the Women's World Cup was unveiled with an acknowledgement by CA that the team will be paid in advance for a tournament that will conclude after that date, the players union outlined plans to aid around 200 players who will be out of contract if an agreement is not reached in time.
Clea Smith, the ACA's past players, development and personal development manager, said the plan was designed to protect the most vulnerable players. "The playing group is unified. All male, female, international and domestic players are standing together because they believe in what their position represents," she said.
"The players' position is about preserving the Revenue Sharing Model as well as understanding a need for increases in grassroots cricket. Female and domestic players are the most vulnerable once locked-out by Cricket Australia after June 30, so the [fund] will provide some financial security until a new MOU is resolved."
The Women and Men Cricketers' Assistance Plan will allow players in need to apply for financial help as and when required in the second half of 2017. International male players, whose rich salaries have been highlighted during the dispute, are not eligible for access to the fund. The fund is a response to CA's threat, delivered by the chief executive Jame Sutherland last week, that the board was not considering any alternative contract plans beyond the MOU expiry.
"We are genuinely committed to getting a deal done before June 30," the ACA player liaison manager Simon Katich said. "Unfortunately, however, the players and CA still appear to be a long way apart in the current negotiations, especially given CA are now refusing mediation. And with CA's threat last week saying that they would effectively lock-out the players after June 30, it looks as though this impasse may continue for some time yet.
"The players continue to be united with the ACA and are up for the fight when it comes to having the Revenue Sharing Model for all players - male, female, national and domestic. There is no doubt that there is a degree of uncertainty about what lies ahead given June 30 is fast approaching, so whatever can be done to ease some of the pressure on the players is welcome."
In naming the Women's World Cup squad, the CA team performance manager Pat Howard said the team led by Meg Lanning would be supported either side of the deadline. "Selectors have chosen this squad irrespective and independent of the status of the MOU," he said. "We are confident that there will be a resolution in place by 30 June and look forward to continuing to support these players to perform at their very best on the global stage."
The first tour to take place after the expiry of the current MOU is an Australia A tour of South Africa, with the former international players Jason Gillespie, Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin to be among the coaching staff. The national selectors are yet to announce a squad for that tour.
CA and the ACA remained poles apart on Thursday, following the board's rejection of a request for independent mediation in order to get negotiations moving once more. Darren Lehmann, the former ACA president and national men's team coach, has stressed that communication is key to avoiding further turmoil.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig