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Free agency confirmed for Big Bash League

Brydon Coverdale

June 7, 2011

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Paul Marsh, Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive
Paul Marsh, the chief executive of the Australian Cricketers' Association, says free agency in the Big Bash League is a major win for players © Australian Cricketers' Association
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Australia's cricketers have become free agents in Twenty20 and can begin signing up with the new Big Bash League franchises. Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) have signed off on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), despite shelving negotiations over the distribution of private investment money that could come in for the newly-formed city-based Twenty20 sides.

The one-year extension to the existing MOU means that the players and administrators have a little extra time to come to an agreement over private investment, if and when backers begin to jump on board with the Melbourne and Sydney sides. The ACA chief executive Paul Marsh said that if private money came in before this summer's inaugural Big Bash League, the players could still win a piece of the pie.

"We have no idea what value if anything is going to come from the private investment money that may come in to these franchises," Marsh said. "Until we get some certainty around that I don't think it would have been a smart decision for us to lock in for more than one year. Next year, if we can get some certainty around that we may lock in for a longer term.

"One thing we've negotiated into this deal is a clause that if and when that does happen, then we'll sit down with CA and seek to negotiate an outcome. It would be fair to say we're a fair way apart on that particular issue, so there'll be some pretty robust discussions on that if and when that time comes."

James Sutherland, the CA chief executive, said the decision to side-step private investment had been necessary to keep the Australian game from grinding to an industrial halt.

"Both parties have agreed it's not an issue today," he said. "It may be an issue in the future and if it is an issue in the future then we will in good faith sit down with each other and talk that through. In some ways perhaps ideally it would be great to be sitting here today and say we've locked that down and got some agreement on that.

"But it's a common sense, pragmatic approach to the situation, we want the show to keep moving on and we want to be absolutely focused in giving players the security around their future as much as possible."

The ACA has already had one major victory in the Big Bash League, with Cricket Australia agreeing to free agency as the method of recruitment. With eight teams in the new competition, which begins in December, existing state contracts will bear no relevance to who plays where, so a die-hard Victorian like Brad Hodge could end up playing for Hobart, or Adelaide, or Brisbane.

Cricket Australia's original preference had been for all players to enter a draft, which could have meant a widespread scattering of cricketers to unfamiliar parts of the country. But under the free-agency model, every player will be able to negotiate his own deal with a team of his choice, which Marsh said was a significant win for the players.

"One of the great outcomes for us around the Big Bash is we fought very hard to get a player allocation model of free agency," he said. "That means players can negotiate with the teams of their choice and agree to terms, the value of their choice. We fought hard for that and we've got to a point now where we have an unrestricted free-agency model, which is pretty rare in world sport.

"It's a big change from what we've traditionally had. We've come to some very good solutions here. It's going to be a change and the players are going to have to get used to having two different contracts, two different employers. It is more complex. But in time we'll get used to it and it will become the norm."

The ACA and Cricket Australia had struggled to reach common ground on the MOU for several months, with the private investment issue and a distribution of funds from a proposed redevelopment of the WACA the two key sticking points. In the end, those two issues were put aside so planning for the Big Bash League could stay on track, and the players will retain their share of 26% of Australian cricket revenue.

"Australian cricket has one of its biggest summers ever coming up in terms of both fan appeal but also in terms of revenue coming into the game," Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland said. "The launch of the Big Bash League is important to us and to the ACA because of its long-term value in helping cricket recruit young people to become cricket fans; and the international programme we hope to announce later this week will offer current and new fans a big year of international cricket.

"Recognising this, CA and the ACA have agreed to defer a number of outstanding issues until next year to ensure we can all get on with planning a big summer that will be important to fans and to players alike."

One thing they did agree on was a reduction in the number of state contracts, with each side having 14 to 18 spots available, down from the existing range of 16 to 20. Base contract levels will also dip slightly, but players shouldn't be short-changed thanks to the promise of extra money from their new Twenty20 deals.

The Big Bash League sides will have to work under a salary cap, but there will be no maximum contract figure for an individual player. Sides will be able to sign up to two overseas players in a squad of 18.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by DirtFromTheDyte on (June 8, 2011, 7:43 GMT)

CA, you've missed the boat by about 2 years trying to cash in on T20

No one cares anymore, and what wrong with the current format?

Posted by   on (June 8, 2011, 2:28 GMT)

Oh no... WHat a joke! I don't want Hughes, North, Marsh, Finch, Hodge, ect, playing for Tasmania (or Hobart as it will be known). Stupid changing from the state names, all stupid ideas CA

Posted by Hoggy_1989 on (June 7, 2011, 10:42 GMT)

So far as I can tell, this is exactly the same as the old Big Bash, but with more commercialism, more ads, less regard for the spectators overfill of pointless T20 fixtures....in the name of the opportunistic buck to fill the cash-stuffed pockets of Cricket Australia. Sure, more money for the players who can't get into the IPL cashflow, and another excuse for Chris Gayle and Sajid Mahmood to be useless for a Western Australian team. I wonder how long it'll be before this competition becomes as overblown, drawn out and easily forgotten as the last IPL season.

Posted by   on (June 7, 2011, 9:34 GMT)

Obviously every cricketer wants to play under the best coach in the business. As of now there are Darren Lehman and Mickey Arthur. So this will surely benefit the Brisbane and Perth teams rather than Sydney or Melbourne franchises.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (June 7, 2011, 9:27 GMT)

You're in the wrong news story, Jim1207. As for this news story, well, I have said it a million times before, and I am going to keep saying it: this Big Bash League is doomed to failure. I would be shocked if it was even as good as it was last time around. A flop is a coming.

Posted by Jim1207 on (June 7, 2011, 9:11 GMT)

"It is a disappointing way to go out but knowing Kato he won't think about it that way, he'll remember all the great times he's had with the Australian team and be proud of that. Not many players get to have the fairytale finish." They are telling him that he is old and would probably out forever - a player who has scored at an average of over 50 for last three years has to fight his own place losing a contract? I do not think it's justice for a player like him. This happens when Australia need quality batsmen to bat through days in test cricket. I started the discussion here, sorry, as comment section was not opened at that time in the appropriate article.

Posted by Finn92 on (June 7, 2011, 8:51 GMT)

It won't be anything like the IPL, which itself is dying. TV ratings were down 25% and no one cares anymore as on the whole the standard was fairly poor in some sides and do Australia really think they can match that? Next joke

Posted by TeamRocker on (June 7, 2011, 8:44 GMT)

@Jim1207- What on earth are you talking about?

Posted by Jama on (June 7, 2011, 8:33 GMT)

Ponting lets selectors play with his buts.

Posted by Foxswoop on (June 7, 2011, 7:25 GMT)

What are you talking about there Jim1207?

Posted by Meety on (June 7, 2011, 6:46 GMT)

@Jim1207 - players have lost there central contracts before & fought hard & got them back thru excellant performance. I'm pretty sure Katich has lost his contract before, if the fire is still within - he could get it back. As for Punter, he's a crucial part of the next 2 years & its a no-brainer giving him a contract.

Posted by Jim1207 on (June 7, 2011, 5:12 GMT)

Katich has scored a yearly test average of 57, 48 and 47 in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He has been removed from the central contract. Ponting has scored at 38, 47, 39 and 37 in years 2007 to 2010 and he has been still retained as captain. I always feel hurt for the way they treated Steve Waugh and now Katich but Ponting seems to enjoy the favours all the time.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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