Cricket Australia risks having its best players targeted by Twenty20 leagues around the world as a result of the ongoing pay dispute, the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) has warned.
The existing Memorandum of Understanding between the players and Cricket Australia expires on June 30, and a stand-off regarding a new agreement continues between the two parties. The players are adamant that the existing pay model, in which players share in CA's revenue, must continue, while the board is equally resolute in its aim to move away from the system.
David Warner last week said that if the disagreement continued over the coming months, in a worst-case scenario Australia could find itself without a team for next summer's home Ashes series. Unless a new deal is reached, or the existing MoU is extended, players would effectively be unemployed, and thus free to sign with any cricket league around the world.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Tuesday that while some English counties could be interested in signing Australians for the T20 Blast to begin in July, a bigger threat could be South Africa's new T20 tournament, which will clash with the Australian home summer. The ACA chief executive, Alistair Nicholson, said such reports were unsurprising.
"To threaten Australia's cricketers shows an apparent lack of appreciation of international circumstances," Nicholson said of CA's approach. "Times have changed. The commercial reality of the international cricket world is that our cricketers are in high demand for more money all over the world.
"CA forcing them into unemployment is an open invitation to the international cricket world. It's a dangerous mistake and one that is completely unnecessary. And it compounds the existing error of dismantling revenue sharing which is the best defence against international forces.
"Australian cricketers, men and women both, want to play in Australia, for Australia and for their states and T20 teams. When you threaten them with unemployment you place them squarely in the sights of the new cricket world."
Nicholson also said it was important to note that Australia's elite international cricketers were, by sticking together with the rest of the playing group around the country, effectively costing themselves money.
"The top players are going into bat for the domestic players, female players and grassroots cricket. That's what this dispute is largely about," he said. "And what they are asking for is simply to keep what they already have. The players are asking for 22.5% of revenue for them and 22.5% for grass roots, leaving CA with 55% of revenue.
"If they were being greedy they would have taken the deals CA were offering them to walk away from their colleagues. David Warner, for example, could actually be worse off for sticking by his mates. That's to his great credit."
Ian Chappell, who was a leading figure in the World Series Cricket rift of 40 years ago, said he was pleased to see the way Warner and his colleagues in the Australia team were standing up for the domestic cricketers.
"I'm delighted the players are sticking together and staying strong on it," Chappell told AAP. "From afar it looks as though the board are trying to splinter the players, which I find a rather strange tactic. Maybe the board thought 'you know what the players are like'.
"They were working on the theory of greed, that you keep the top blokes happy with money and they won't care about the rest. It looks like they've picked the wrong target."
Although Chappell conceded that in such disagreements there were generally faults on both sides, he believed that such negotiations were best handled differently in sport than in the business world.
"Some ploys might work for Rio Tinto and might work with some businesses and some industries," Chappell said, referencing the fact that CA's chairman David Peever was previously managing director of mining giant Rio Tinto. "But what you've got here is 100% membership of a union.
"And cricketers are more than employees of a business. As a board you risk putting down your most important assets. It's the top players who attract people to the game. To play, watch it on TV and at grounds."