Australian news June 22, 2011

States 'created' BBL cash splurge

Paul Marsh, the Australian players union chief executive, has defended the weighting of state and Big Bash League contracts for next summer, saying the flush of money for the Twenty20 competition was necessitated by the spending of the same states that are now irked by the changes.

Western Australia's coach, Mickey Arthur, has been the most vocal of many critics against the re-distribution of wealth to reward T20 players with more money upfront in the BBL than Test aspirants in the Sheffield Shield.

However Marsh noted that the states had themselves created the market for T20 contracts by offering exorbitant amounts to overseas players like Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi and Kieron Pollard in previous editions of the domestic T20 tournament, now expanded with eight city-based teams.

"I'm finding a lot of irony in the states complaining about the BBL payments because they are the ones who've created the market by what they've been paying the overseas players over the past couple of years," Marsh told ESPNcricinfo.

"You hear stories of players being paid up to $175,000 for overseas players. Our position is if you're paying overseas players that, then you've got to be prepared to pay the Australian players who are equivalent players that kind of money as well.

"So you've got to have some sort of salary cap that's going to allow the teams to pay the players. They've been so focused on making the Champions League, the state associations, they are the ones that have pushed cricket in this direction - they put that priority above anything else.

"It's a bit rich of the states to be having a crack at Cricket Australia or the players association for the payment model when they are the ones who pushed this in this direction."

Australia's push towards the BBL has been driven largely by the need for a new revenue stream for the game in Australia, and the roll-out of the new competition is designed to raise the bidding prices for the next round of domestic television rights in two years' time.

"It's been well documented that we're not growing any more or we haven't been growing for a few years under most of the key indicators, whether that be financial, television ratings, attendances or the performances of our national team," said Marsh. "So we've been battling, and what CA are trying to do is create a new revenue stream and that's one of those key indicators but it does lead into a lot of the other things.

"With more money you can put more money into your team, you can pay your players better and therefore attract more players, there's a whole lot of reasons why we think BBL is important."

One misconception Marsh addressed was that Shield players could still earn far more than their base retainers via match payments, whereas BBL contracts were entirely retainer based.

"With the state contracts there's a split of a bit more than 50 per cent goes to the retainers and a bit less goes to the match payments, and that continues," he said. "But the BBL is 100 per cent retainers. So in terms of figures the pool for the Shield and the one day cup is about $13.6 million this year but for BBL it's $9.5 million.

"If you look at the whole pool two thirds are taken up by the domestic competitions, and one third for BBL. That might be slightly out of whack but I don't think that's unreasonable, when you weigh it up - I don't see there's an over-prioritisation of the BBL. It's not just retainers for the Shield and one day domestic players, they will get match payments as well."

In assessing the prospects for players who would prefer to push for Test duty and forsake the T20 pot of gold, Marsh admitted there was less incentive for them.

"It has changed a little bit," he said. "The BBL is going to be very important for Australian cricket going forward, the states have created the market for the players, it is what it is, and one of the challenges will always be to ensure the balance between T20 cricket and the longer forms of the game. We want to protect that as much, if not more, than anyone else in Australian cricket."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo