Contract crisis threatens West Indies on eve of World Twenty20
West Indies cricket is facing the prospect of a player strike on the eve of the World Twenty20 after the 15-man squad appeared collectively to reject the contracts on offer from the WICB.
Darren Sammy, captain of the West Indies T20 side, has written to the board stating the players "can't accept" what they perceive as "huge financial reductions" in the terms compared to previous global tournaments which, he says, amounts to an 80% cut.
Sammy also stated that 14 of the 15-man squad are not part of WIPA (the West Indies Players' Association) and therefore had not given the organisation the authority to negotiate on their behalf.
Though Sammy himself stopped short of threatening to withdraw from the tournament, ESPNcricinfo understands that other squad members have not ruled out the possibility. He made it clear that the players would not accept the current offer and called upon the board to "address this urgently".
"We want to represent the West Indies but the financials on offer we can't accept," Sammy wrote.
"Obviously I am not privy to exact numbers paid to the WICB from the ICC, but I understand USD $8m will be paid to the Board.
"Traditionally 25% has been paid to the squad. That would equate to USD $2m / 15 therefore approximately USD $133,000 per player.
"Worse case scenario the squad would earn $414,000 collectively under the terms of the contract offered by WICB to participate in the T20 World Cup 2016. That is just over 5%. A staggering difference, a near 80% reduction.
"We want to propose we participate in the T20 World Cup 2016 under the same terms we have represented the West Indies in previous tournaments.
"Please can you address this urgently. The T20 World Cup is just a matter of weeks away."
But the premise of Sammy's argument was quickly dismissed by Michael Muirhead, the CEO of the WICB. He insisted that the sums mentioned in Sammy's statement were "totally incorrect" and reminded the team that WIPA remains the "recognised collective bargaining representative of West Indies cricketers and therefore negotiates the remuneration between WICB and each West Indian player, whether such player is or is not a member of WIPA."
"We are not sure where you obtained this information, but assure you it is totally incorrect," Muirhead stated in connection with the $8m figure.
"As a result of the ICC revamp which was agreed on 8 February 2014, the ICC has changed the manner in which distributions to Full Members in relation to ICC events are paid - starting from the ICC WT20 2016. These payments are now spread out and distributed over an eight-year cycle, rather than being paid out in a lump sum and attributed to any one event.
"It is therefore not possible to identify a particular sum which will be paid to the WICB by the ICC in respect of the WT20 2016.
"While it is true that WICB has previously calculated compensation to the ICC event squad members as a percentage of the ICC distribution received in relation to the particular event; because of the reason outlined above, it is not possible to calculate a percentage to be paid to the Squad, as the ICC distribution is no longer being made in the traditional manner.
"The WICB, in recognition of this, and in an effort at fairness and transparency, allocates 25% of WICB revenues estimated over a four-year period - including ICC distributions - to players, through a guaranteed minimum revenue pool, out of which player payments are made.
"Anything in excess of this minimum over the relevant four-year cycle, will be divided solely among the international players, as agreed with WIPA.
"The remuneration to the players for the WT20 comprises an agreed match fee of three times the usual fee, plus 50% of the net proceeds of any sponsorship for the event, and 80% of any prize money earned by the team. Note that for this tournament, the prize money has increased substantially from the previous WT20, moving from a gross total of US$3million to US$5.6million, of which the winner will receive US$1.6million."
Muirhead signed off his reply by making it quite clear the WICB was not prepared to compromise.
"We are unable to move the deadline of 2pm ECT on 14 February 2016 for receipt of the signed player contracts for the WT20 2016."
West Indies won the 2012 version of the tournament and recently returned to the top of the ICC T20 rankings. They are currently rated as the world's second-best international T20 side.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo