Australia: Players snubbed in talks with ACB (23 Oct 1997)

23 October 1997

Players snubbed in talks with ACB

By Charles Randall

AUSTRALIAN cricket edged towards a crisis yesterday when a meeting between authorities and players about fundamental issues ended abruptly after 30 seconds in Melbourne.

On one side of the table were the Australian Cricket Board, on the other the Australian Cricketers Association, the increasingly militant body known as the ACA, representing 108 professionals on the state circuit.

The discussions centred around pay, conditions and, most significantly, a demand by the players to have more say in decisions about cricket, an area the Board regarded as not negotiable.

Mal Speed, the Board's chief executive, said yesterday they had analysed a document put forward by the players and that they had "no alternative" but to end discussions. "It was clear that it raised a number of issues which would attack the fundamental principles on which cricket in Australia is run."

Tim May, the former Test off-spinner and now chief executive of the ACA, said after yesterday's Melbourne fiasco he would not rule out strike action and, with a three-Test series against New Zealand starting next month, Australian cricket faces the most embarrassing upheaval since Kerry Packer took control of players for television purposes 20 years ago.

Speed argued that the document went far beyond what the board considered to be "an appropriate role for a players' association". The ACA have been concerned about the salaries of Sheffield Shield players, most of whom earn less than £13,500 per season, having to give up full-time employment outside the game.

Speed claimed that, with Sheffield Shield competition losses approaching £3 million a year, there was not enough money.

New Zealand made an inauspicious start to their tour, when they were dismissed for 196 by Queensland at Cairns.

Andrew Bichel, the fast-bowler in his first major game since his back injury during the Ashes tour, took five wickets for 31.

ACA items that concerned the Board were:

Proposed right to veto changes to ACB or state association business. Right to veto ACB programming and overseas tours. Proposed structure for fixing player payments. System proposed for allocating an increase in player salaries. Handing of fundamental decisions about the future of the game to a third party outside cricket. Proposal to have exclusive power to determine the breakdown between players' retainers and match payments.

The England Cricket Board have appointed Nick Slade, a computer expert, who will spend the next 12 months assembling a detailed dossier on performances by England players and their opponents.

David Lloyd, England's coach, has already utilised Slade's comprehensive database of statistics - his Statsmaster system logs every ball from a day's play - in this summer's Ashes series.

A similar system is already used by Queensland coach John Buchanan, who will join Middlesex as manager next season, and the South African Cricket Board.

Nottinghamshire have approached Paul Strang, the Zimbabwe leg-spinner, to become their overseas player.

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)

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