BBL recruiting amnesty called for
An amnesty is required to air all the recruiting "dirty laundry" accumulated over the first three seasons of the Twenty20 Big Bash League as Cricket Australia's integrity unit seeks to clean up the competition's fast and loose reputation for player dealings.
Paul Marsh, chief executive of the Australian Cricketers Association, has called for a period of truth-telling after South Australia sacked Jamie Cox as CA conducted an investigation into his recruiting activities.
Cox's transgressions were believed to be the conducting of player negotiations and the reaching of agreements with players outside the BBL's stipulated contracting period, the sort of offences that had gone routinely unpunished in the first three years of the BBL before the integrity unit was officially charged with keeping a tighter rein on things in December 2013. Showbiz must now be balanced by studiousness.
Marsh, who was saddened by Cox's dismissal having worked alongside him on the ACA executive in the past, told ESPNcricinfo that changing the culture of BBL recruiting and regulations required a more nuanced approach, allowing for a period of honest reflection before any punitive measures were taken.
"There's a culture that's built up in the BBL that it's ok to play outside these contracting rules," Marsh said. "Teams have been doing it since the first year and nothing's been done about it, and everyone knows it. You only have to look at day one of the contracting period, half the contracts get announced. How did that happen if they haven't already been in discussions and reached at least a verbal agreement before the day of the contracting period starting?
"Everyone knows it's been going on. So what needs to happen I believe is an amnesty period so we come out and say 'everyone bring forward your dirty laundry and say what happened in the first three years'. We put it all on the table and start with a clean slate. Anything that's not disclosed then teams are liable to be sanctioned moving forward, but from this point the culture needs to shift to where everyone does play by the rules."
While understanding of the integrity unit's desire to ensure that administrators followed the rules as diligently as the players on the field, Marsh said the "big stick" approach would create plenty of problems. "To be fair the resources of the integrity unit have only recently been beefed up so this is more a solution than a criticism," he said.
"It's really hard on the teams and the players if you come in here with a big stick as we head into year four and teams have been behaving a certain way and getting away with it, then all of a sudden the big stick comes in and there are severe sanctions. I'm not saying CA are coming in with the big stick as we don't know what their sanctions will be yet, but I do think we need to look at how we handle this change."
This year's major BBL trading period ended last week with little player movement taking place. Marsh also reckoned the competition would benefit by pushing this phase forward to begin a matter of days, not three months, after the BBL itself had concluded. Players and teams would thus be allowed to shore up their futures rapidly, while also dissuading recruiters from trying to gain an advantage by breaking early from the starting blocks.
"We should also bring the contracting period forward," Marsh said. "It's three months after the end of the BBL, the players need to know where they're playing next year, where they might be living next year. It's been de-linked from the state contracts so when they're signing contracts it is very difficult and it also means teams can gain a competitive advantage by getting in first. We should start the contracting period straight after the tournament finishes and get on with it."
Cox's sacking was the SACA board's decision, with the outcome of the CA investigation still to be determined.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig