Australia pay talks crawling two weeks from deadline
Time is fast running out to avoid damaging dislocation to Australian cricket, after precious little progress was made in two days of meetings between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association ahead of the June 30 expiry of the MOU.
The negotiating teams for CA - led by Kevin Roberts - and the ACA - led by its chief executive Alistair Nicholson - met on Wednesday and Thursday, with plans for further discussions next week still being finalised. CA's chief executive James Sutherland is in London for the Champions Trophy and ICC meetings.
ESPNcricinfo has learnt that the two parties remain very much at odds over the fundamental of a fixed revenue percentage model for the next MOU, with CA as adamant as ever about breaking it up while the ACA seek to retain it, albeit in modified form.
This impasse means fewer than two weeks remain to reach any sort of agreement about a way forward, opening up numerous grim possibilities. These include out of contract players being left unemployed from July 1, the players' intellectual property passing from CA to the ACA's new commercial arm The Cricketers Brand, and the board consequently being in breach of many existing commercial and broadcast contracts involving the use of players.
CA is currently trying to secure a raft of new sponsors following the conclusion of major deals with the Commonwealth Bank and the alcohol sponsor CUB, while also entering the final year of its existing broadcast rights contracts with the Nine and Ten networks. Ten, this week, announced it was being placed into voluntary administration, potentially affecting its ability to bid for the Big Bash League after the current deal expires.
While the women's World Cup squad currently in England have been provided with short-term contracts that go beyond the start of July, CA has announced men's squads for the Australia A tour of South Africa later in July and also the Test tour of Bangladesh in August, without reaching any agreement on how those players might be paid. State players are currently training having been given letters of intent to offer them contracts, but have no further certainty beyond the end of this month.
"Selectors have also chosen this Bangladesh squad irrespective and independent of the status of the MOU," CA's team performance manager Pat Howard said. "We are working towards a resolution being in place by June 30 and look forward to continuing to support these players to perform at their very best on the global stage."
It is understood that the negotiator Roberts has remained totally committed to CA's original pay proposal and its dismantling of revenue sharing. But the ACA has argued it cannot progress without knowing more of the financial detail behind it - mainly how the cash being allocated to male and female players over the next five years measures up if counted as a percentage of cricket revenue over that time.
While CA has repeatedly offered up information relating to how much the players' pay will rise depending on numerous scenarios in terms of broadcast and sponsorship revenues, it has equally declined to provide an illustration of how much it thinks the total "pie" will grow over that period. At the same time, it has contended that the ACA's estimates have overinflated the amount of money available to the game from 2017 to 2023, the proposed term of the next MOU.
Equally, the ACA has sought greater detail of how pay will be broken down for domestic players in particular, but to date has only been given the "average" figures present in CA's initial pay offer. The board has argued that much of the detail sought by the ACA is commercial-in-confidence, and beyond the level of information a collective bargaining agent should be entitled to.
Greg Hunt, Australia's minister for sport, has indicated that the federal government would be willing to provide independent mediation should this dispute threaten the looming home Ashes series. Neither CA nor the ACA wished to comment on talks.
Sutherland and Nicholson spoke last week in a rare instance of direct communication between the two CEOs, but CA's chief executive and its chairman, David Peever, are now preoccupied by a raft of ICC issues. Chief among these items is work to ensure the passing of a new constitution for the global governing body that would fundamentally change the shape of cricket politics.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig