Mark Taylor calls for MoU compromise
Mark Taylor, the Cricket Australia (CA) board director, has admitted that compromise must be found between the game's governing body and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) before the game suffers further damage, in an ugly pay war that has put the national team's upcoming series at risk of abandonment.
In speaking at an Ashes event organised by the Nine Network in Melbourne on Tuesday, Taylor became the first senior CA figure connected to the MoU debate to offer a public opinion on the dispute in more than six weeks, since the chief executive James Sutherland was interviewed by the ABC on May 25. Taylor also remains the only board director to have spoken publicly about it at all.
Prior to that, Taylor had spoken firmly about CA's desire to breakup the revenue sharing model on Nine's Sports Sunday programme on May 14. But he took on a more conciliatory tone this time, 11 days after the expiry of the most recent MoU between the players and the board left more than 230 of the country's cricketers unemployed and a mounting mess of commercial problems for the board. Not least of these is reassuring its chief broadcaster Nine - for whom Taylor commentates - that the Ashes will go ahead as planned.
"I think there's got to be compromise on both sides, I really believe that," Taylor said on Tuesday. "I think at any negotiation you give and you take. I think when you get to that situation, which I hope we are getting very close to now, then you get close to a resolution. I'm confident there will be a resolution soon. I don't know when but I just hope both sides keep working hard at it.
"I think everyone has probably read and heard enough about things that don't involve people scoring runs and taking wickets, me included, and I think that [the cricket] is what we all want to see. That includes sponsors, TV networks, past players, commentators, and I think the quicker we get to that situation the better for the game.
"I'm still very confident there will be an Ashes series and I'm very confident there will be some Test-match cricket played by Australia before them. That's certainly what I'm working towards and I'm assuming both parties are working towards that. It's far from ideal and it's cost an Australia A tour of South Africa which is disappointing, no doubt about it. But at this stage we haven't lost a Bangladesh tour and we certainly don't want to lose an Ashes tour here in Australia."
While Taylor has only recently returned home from holidays, he said all board directors had been kept informed of progress in talks by CA's lead negotiator Kevin Roberts, including conference calls every three days that he had dialled in to from overseas. ESPNcricinfo understands that some progress appeared to have been made by the middle of last week before regressing and forcing the cancellation of the Australia A tour. While talks go on, little if any movement from entrenched positions has been discernible since.
A director since 2004, apart from a brief absence in 2012-13 when the CA board was changed from a body of 14 state representatives to an independent group of nine, Taylor agreed that it was vital to find a way for the two parties to coexist in whatever new landscape was drawn up as a result of the next MoU.
"Day to day it's management's job, I've been away for the last couple of weeks, only got back on Sunday night myself, but I've been kept abreast of the situation," he said. "Calls every three days, sometimes a bit more often if need be, and now I'm back in Australia I'm well aware of the situation. And I'll be doing everything I can to try and find a resolution to this.
"I think we all have to be adult about it. It's a big game these days. Players are fully professional. Cricket boards are trying to do what they think is right for the game in general, so there's going to be times when you disagree and that's where we are at the moment. But I think both sides have to work towards finding a resolution which is in the best interests of the game and the players.
"From a game point of view, it's far from ideal. We are in July, the Ashes are still four months away, but the Bangladesh tour is only a month away. The quicker we can get it resolved the better, the quicker we can move on and rebuild the relationship [that] I think is important between CA and the ACA. The quicker we can start rebuilding that, I think that'll be good for the game."
The former captain Ian Chappell, meanwhile, termed the standoff as "the biggest bust up since World Series Cricket between players and administrators" and reckoned both sides of the argument, whatever their merits, had begun to be damaged from the moment the previous MoU expired on July 1.
"I think once it went past the June 30 deadline I think it started to hurt the game from both points of view," Chappell said. "I think the public were probably sick to death of it by then it was a plague on both their houses as far as the public are concerned. I think the quicker it gets resolved the better and if it's going to be a partnership, which I think it needs to be, it's not a boss-employee situation.
"If it's going to be a partnership there's got to be give and take on both sides, and probably most importantly there has to be a bit more respect, that's the first thing that needs to happen to help rebuild the relationship. My sympathies are always going to be on the side of the players, but when a dispute goes on this long there has to be fault on both sides.
"The job of the players association is to work with the administrators. Your job as a cricketer is just to play the game and having come from an era where the players had to fight the fight, that's not an ideal situation at all. To me it's up to the players association to get the thing sorted out with the board, and for the players to just play their game."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig