West Indies contracts row July 9, 2009

Five years and counting

Cricinfo takes a look at the history of contract rows
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The recent row between the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) and the WICB is just the latest in a series of disagreements which date back to 2004. Temporary solutions have been found in every instance, but just when one dispute seems to have been resolved, another comes along. Cricinfo looks at the history of friction between the two bodies.

In November 2004 the West Indies Players' Association asked the players not to sign letters of invitations by the board for a tour of Australia claiming some of the clauses "represent an attempt to exploit the players for commercial purposes."

The dispute originated in a turf war between telecom rivals Digicel and Cable & Wireless. In July 2004 Digicel signed a five-year US$20million sponsorship deal with the WICB in London, becoming the official sponsors for the Test and one-day teams, event sponsors for all home and away Tests and ODIs played by West Indies. Two months earlier Cable & Wireless had signed up to become one of the official sponsors of the World Cup in 2007 and along with Brian Lara, added Ramnaresh Sarwan, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Omari Banks, Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul and Dwayne Smith to its individual endorsements list.

Justice Adrian Saunders, an independent adjudicator was appointed to find a solution. In December just days before West Indies' scheduled departure for Australia, Saunders said the tour would go on after the board and WIPA accepted his decision. But the sponsorship dispute was not solved.

In March 2005 the West Indies selectors announced a 22-man squad for two series, against South Africa and Pakistan, on condition the players sign fresh contracts with the board. The seven players signed by Cable & Wireless were not included in the squad.

The war of words between the WICB and WIPA continued, with Dinanath Ramnarine, the president of the players' body, demanding an open inquiry into the board's administration. In June the board invited 13 players to sign contracts and make themselves available for the tour to Sri Lanka, while it tussled with the WIPA over the contentious Clause 5 - that covered players' individual endorsements and central team sponsorships. Only three of those 13 signed the contracts. The following month WICB picked a second-string squad just a day after it seemed it would reach a temporary agreement with the WIPA on including Clause 5 in binding arbitration.

In August Teddy Griffith was replaced as the board's president by Ken Gordon who promised a solution to the dispute by the end of the year but soon after that the board refuted the findings and imputations made by the Justice Anthony Lucky-led Sponsorship Negotiations Review Committee report that its contract with Cable & Wireless was "null and void" and "legally flawed".

In October the board and WIPA agreed a full-strength squad would be sent to Australia in December. But Clause 5 remained unresolved over the next 11 months before the two bodies reached an agreement shortly before the 2007 World Cup hosted by West Indies.

However fresh trouble erupted soon after the World Cup, as players demanded extra payments for a tour of England which, they argued, was outside the ICC's Future Tours Programme. The board maintained it was part of the FTP and covered under existing contracts. The players eventually signed the contracts and toured England but an arbitration panel later found in their favour.

In September 2007 the new WICB president Julian Hunte invited Ramnarine to join the board as a director. Ramnarine accepted but the time of peace was short. He quit his post in March 2009 as a new contracts row broke out. Domestic players across the Caribbean went on strike. Among the more critical and outstanding issues were retainer contracts and first-class fees, scheduling of regional and international tournaments, injury payments, the long overdue updated anti-doping policy and the provident fund for cricketers. The national side threatened to boycott the final ODI against England in St Lucia but in the end in went ahead as scheduled. The board agreed to look into pay hikes for first-class players.

In July two days before the start of the first Test against Bangladesh, the WIPA announced the squad would boycott the match since the players had gone five series without contracts. WIPA claimed the board had not responded to its submission of retainer contracts and had instead penalised players for not signing those within the deadline. The board vice-president Dave Cameron said the contracts had not been signed because of WIPA's "unreasonable behaviour". WICB named a second-string squad which included nine uncapped players.

Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo