CA board to decide on pay war's end
An end to Australian cricket's pay war hinges on the same place it started - Cricket Australia's board of independent directors.
It was the change of the CA board from 14 state-appointed delegates to nine independently-appointed directors in October 2012 that provided a major catalyst for the governing body's attempt to break up the fixed revenue percentage models at the heart of all collective bargaining agreements between the board and the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) over the past 20 years.
Now, the compromise deal being thrashed out and drafted, in talks between the CA chief executive James Sutherland and his ACA counterpart Alistair Nicholson, must be approved by the same directors - chairman David Peever, Mark Taylor, Bob Every, Jacquie Hey, Earl Eddings, Tony Harrison, Michael Kasprowicz, Michelle Tredenick and John Harnden - who pushed for change in the first place.
The hand of Peever and his directors has been evident throughout the process, which began formally with a meeting between the CA chairman and the ACA president Greg Dyer last November. Directors have, in the words of Taylor, been updated via teleconferences "every three days, sometimes a bit more often if need be".
Most recently, private talks between Sutherland and Nicholson were dramatically reset when, following a board phone hook-up on Wednesday, the CA chief executive went public with the governing body's desire to get a deal done by early this week or to take "residual matters" to private arbitration before a retired judge. Talks between the parties are going on late into Monday night, but directors are said to be confident of CA's ability to win the argument against revenue-sharing in that kind of forum.
They have been closely linked to Kevin Roberts, CA's lead negotiator, until Sutherland entered the fray in the final days before the previous MoU expired on July 1. Roberts had joined the CA board as one of its first independent directors five years ago, a matter of months after the most recent revenue sharing agreement was finalised, before moving to the executive management team in late 2015.
At the time, Roberts was seen as a possible successor to Sutherland, due to his strong corporate background, and also because the move of a CA board director into management was virtually without precedent in the organisation's history. Roberts' role in leading negotiations for CA mirrored Sutherland's own role as lieutenant to his predecessor Malcolm Speed before taking the top job in 2001.
Public pronouncements by board directors have been few and far between during the dispute, limited to television appearances by Taylor, who in May spoke stridently of the impasse and expressed his frustration at the lack of meaningful negotiation.
A little less than two months later, Taylor offered a more conciliatory tone at Channel Nine's Ashes launch on July 11, which followed the MoU expiry that left more than 230 players out of contract, and called for an MoU compromise.
Yet, the more hawkish views evident on the board were underlined just two days later, when Peever penned an indignant column in The Australian newspaper that was then posted on the board's website. In it, he attacked the ACA and the media for peddling "myths" about his industrial relations history with the mining firm Rio Tinto, where he served as managing director in Australia until 2012. He also pitched for CA's hardline position in very similar ways to Sutherland during his multiple public appearances over the same period.
With days remaining before determinations must be made on issues like the looming Test tour of Bangladesh, and a raft of commercial agreements with broadcasters and sponsors around the home Ashes summer, the biggest question is whether the CA board will show a level of flexibility more in line with the words of the former captain Taylor than those of the current chairman Peever.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig