Australia players offer A$30 million for grassroots
Australia's cricketers have offered to commit around A$30 million to the game's lower levels and accept Cricket Australia's revenue forecasts for the next five years under a compromise proposal that would serve to end a damaging pay war.
However the "terms sheet" brought to negotiations on Wednesday to provide a basis for the next collective agreement between the board and the Australian Cricketers Association is now in doubt after CA on Thursday night sent through a revised MoU clause that removed all references to revenue sharing. This correspondence has led the ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson to seek urgent clarification over whether the talks of the past two weeks - including his opposite number James Sutherland - have broken down. The pair are set to meet on Sunday.
In an email sent to all contracted players and seen by ESPNcricinfo, Nicholson outlined the basics of the proposal drawn from recent discussions between the two parties that started on the premise of modernised revenue sharing. "Contrary to this progress and ACA's attempts to resolve the dispute, on Thursday night the ACA received draft legal wording removing any reference to 'revenue share' in a proposed new Article 5 of the next MOU," Nicholson wrote. "This was unexpected. It has setback negotiations and thwarted the prospects of agreement.
"The ACA will seek clarification on this as a matter of priority, as it seems to ignore a number of our proposed solutions in the Terms Sheet. These actions would have the effect of taking the negotiations back to 'square one' minimising the good work and good faith acquired over the last two weeks and again jeopardising upcoming tours."
The compromise proposal included acceptance of CA's conservative revenue forecasts - which are around A$100 million short of the ACA's forecasts - and the creation of a players grassroots investment fund to funnel money back into an area the board has identified as "chronically under-funded".
At the same time, CA agreed to cut administrative costs over the next five years in order to also contribute more money to this area, to provide back pay to more than 230 players left unemployed after the expiry of the previous MoU on July 1, and to back down from an attempt to rollover half of the current adjustment ledger payment of A$58 million into the next five years. Nicholson indicated these terms appeared to have been acceptable to both parties.
"On Wednesday of this week and with the endorsement of the ACA Executive, I provided CA with a revamped ACA plan to break the current deadlock," Nicholson wrote. "We offered this in the new spirit in which the talks were being conducted. And with an understanding that agreement was being built around the concept of 'modernising revenue sharing,' the agreement which kick-started this latest round of talks.
"We therefore offered a modernised model including the making of substantial concessions by the players in good faith. Namely, that players would accept a formal mechanism for redistributing amounts of revenue from the players to grassroots cricket via a new Players Grassroots Investment Fund (PGIF).
"Dependent on the achievement of revenue forecasts, we have proposed that this would be approximately $30 million injection from all male, female, international and domestic players. It is a show of the players' respect for growing the game and the next generation of players. And a desire for a resolution."
Precious little time remains for the dispute to be ended without upsetting a wide range of commercial and cricketing obligations for CA, most notably a mess of sponsorship and broadcast agreements, plus the board's commitment to provide teams to travel to Bangladesh next month and then India in September before a home Ashes series.
Nicholson told the players that the MoU itself would take so long to draft that it was vital a basic agreement was reached first in order to allow the game to resume. "We have provided this breakthrough plan in the form of a Terms Sheet as the suggested basis of an agreement," Nicholson wrote. "If agreed to it would effectively end the dispute. This is standard practice in large commercial negotiations.
"If there is agreement, the next step would be the more intensive MOU and contract drafting period. Given past experience and the massive detail involved, this would take some time and still may not be completed with time enough to meet the needs of fans, sponsors and broadcasters invested in the upcoming tours and the summer of cricket. I add that it is hard to conceive of any further flexibility the players could possibly offer in these negotiations."
The email to players followed an ACA executive meeting on Friday afternoon at which the proposal and CA's most recent correspondence were discussed. "We are seeking clarification and I will provide more information to you as this situation becomes clearer," Nicholson concluded.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig