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Cricket Australia overhauls management structure

James Sutherland (pictured with CA chairman David Peever) has implemented a new senior management model IDI/Getty Images

A conflict of interest has been removed and a former Rio Tinto executive hired in a major restructure of Cricket Australia's management this week, ESPNcricinfo has learned.

Following a raft of departures from the game's Jolimont headquarters in recent times, the chief executive James Sutherland has informed staff of a new senior management model that constitutes the biggest changes to cricket's day-to-day operations down under in five years.

Chief among the changes is the creation of a new public affairs department overseeing communications, government relations and infrastructure, to be led by the former Rio Tinto executive Mark O'Neill, who had also served as an advisor to the former Prime Minister Paul Keating. O'Neill previously worked alongside the current CA chairman David Peever when he was Rio Tinto's managing director in Australia.

Ben Amarfio, formerly the head of communications, digital and marketing, has been moved to head the commercial wing of the game, a role left vacant by the departure of Mike McKenna to oversee Perth's new stadium. Amarfio will still oversee CA's digital arm and broadcast rights but will no longer be in charge of communications, a combination that had proven problematic as a conflict between growing CA's website and working openly and effectively with other media.

Operations, meanwhile, will for now be the responsibility of Anthony Everard, who has been a vigorous and visible presence for CA as the head of the burgeoning Big Bash League and Women's Big Bash League. In his email to staff, Sutherland said this area had been renamed from operations to events and leagues, with a replacement for the had of events and operations Chris Loftus-Hills (who joined McKenna in Perth) to be advertised shortly.

The longtime head of finance, Kate Banozic, was another departure from CA late last year. Sutherland faced questions about the behaviour of some of his executives over summer, including allegations that Amarfio had been acting as an agent for the former Nine commentator James Brayshaw in talks for new roles with broadcasters.

At the time, Sutherland stated that the matter would be dealt with internally. "Look I don't think it's right that one of our staff was acting as an agent, but let's just say they're things we'll deal with behind closed doors at Cricket Australia," Sutherland said in December. "I don't think this is the place to be talking about that any further."

There were also reports that one senior executive had raised the ire of other staff by having his female personal assistant cook him hot breakfasts and lunches at Jolimont, an arrangement that flew in the face of CA's efforts to promote inclusiveness and advance the cause of women as players and spectators.

At a recent meeting of board directors, the Cricket New South Wales chairman John Warn and chief executive Andrew Jones made a presentation where the pair described how they had changed the culture and output of the state association following a dramatic power struggle at board level four years ago.

CA's senior management structure was last overhauled in early 2012, when the system of executive general managers replaced the previous senior management team. Those changes pre-dated the board's move from state-appointed delegates to an independent board of directors later in 2012. Peever was among the first independent directors announced at that year's AGM - the appointment of one of his former colleagues to CA management does not appear to have been a coincidence.