Cricket Australia firm as contract deadline nears
Cricket Australia's chief executive, James Sutherland, has ruled out an extension of the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the players as the June 30 deadline draws closer with no sign of resolution. Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) will meet again later this week in an effort to resolve their ongoing pay dispute, and neither side has shown any willingness to budge on their demands.
The existing MoU expires at the end of the month and if a new deal is not agreed by that time, Australia's players will be out of contract and could consider strike action. The limited-overs squad departs on Thursday for a one-day tour of England and Ireland, and they will have four matches still to play when the contract talks are due to expire.
The ACA chief executive, Paul Marsh, has declared strike action a last resort, and said the union's preferred option would be to continue with the existing MoU if a new agreement is not reached. That was the outcome last year, when a one-year extension was agreed as a compromise when the parties couldn't find common ground on a new deal, but Sutherland said Cricket Australia was not willing to do the same this time around.
"From our perspective, we're not entertaining any thoughts of rolling over the contract," Sutherland said on Tuesday. "We have a strong view that there needs to be a new agreement going forward and we're negotiating on that basis."
The ACA remains frustrated at Cricket Australia's push to change the pool of revenue from which the players take a 26% cut, but the board is adamant the players will be better off financially. Although neither side has shown any sign of giving ground - in public, at least - somebody will need to compromise to avoid a messy situation on July 1, and Sutherland said he remained hopeful that a deal would be reached.
"We're probably coming into the eleventh hour," he said. "We've got a sharp focus on trying to make sure we can get something done. We'll give it a good crack. We're confident in our position and the attractiveness of the offer we've put on the table. Hopefully the ACA will see it themselves and see their way through to be able to come to an arrangement with us this week, or in the next couple.
"We've got a clear position that our board has mandated on. I guess that puts us in a position of needing to be strong and work through that. I think the ACA is understanding of that position - not necessarily agreeing with it - but we'll talk to them about it and see how we go."
The prolonged nature of the discussions has been especially frustrating for the states, who cannot complete contract negotiations until a new agreement is confirmed. That means players who intend to switch states have been forced to remain with their existing teams for the time being, while there is also no certainty over how many of their players will fall under the Cricket Australia contract list.
"I'm always frustrated when things don't come together as quickly as you'd like," Sutherland said. "It's a really important agreement for cricket; it's a really important agreement for our players. People take time over these things and they're complicated. Sometimes with complex deals they don't come together as quickly as you'd like and they get resolved right at the end. Hopefully that's what we'll see in the next couple of weeks."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here