More than A$1 million (US$768,000 approx) in fortnightly payments originally intended for out-of-contract players will instead be diverted directly to grassroots funding until an MoU is reached between Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA).
On the final day before the expiry of the MoU unleashes a whole host of potentially chaotic scenarios - including doubt over forthcoming tours of South Africa, Bangladesh and India, a mess of commercial and sponsorship conflicts, and the possibility of a host of Australian players heading off to play overseas Twenty20 tournaments - CA underlined its hard-line stance in opposition to the players.
Players had been informed earlier this week by the CA team performance manager Pat Howard that they would not be eligible for any back pay in the event of an extended dispute, a warning that was issued at the same time as a reminder that any players playing "disapproved cricket" during the dispute would face suspensions of at least six months under ICC regulations - banning them from participation in the Ashes this summer.
CA announced the tactic on Friday, a matter of hours before the current MoU was due to expire at midnight, without any sign that either side of the dispute was softening in their hardened stances - namely CA's desire to breakup the fixed revenue percentage model at the heart of all agreements since 1998, and the ACA's to retain it.
"CA has previously confirmed that players without contracts will not be eligible to receive back pay when a new MoU is eventually agreed," a CA spokesman said. "CA will allocate on a fortnightly basis all of the money it would otherwise be paying to out of contract players to the National Community Facilities Funding Scheme (NCFFS). This is expected to be in the order of AUD 1.2 million per fortnight.
"The NCFFS is an existing fund that supports the establishment of new and refurbished playing and training facilities at grassroots level across Australia... established in conjunction with State & Territory Cricket Associations in 2014 to support the establishment of new and refurbished playing and training facilities at grassroots level across Australia.
"CA has utilised the NCFFS to partner with local councils, state and territory governments, and local cricket clubs to make a significant impact in the quality and provision of community cricket facilities. Since its establishment, Australian Cricket has invested AUD 4.5 million into 410 projects worth AUD 41.6 million, which have significantly enhanced cricket infrastructure across Australia and supported increased participation in cricket."
The announcement was accompanied by a lengthy argument against the ACA's position. "A week ago CA offered significant concessions in an effort to reach an agreement by 30 June," the spokesman said. "These were also rejected out of hand through the media - again without any discussion - by the ACA. Those concessions were a genuine attempt by CA to address key concerns raised by players, including the inclusion of all domestic players alongside internationals in the share of the game's surplus.
"Over the past months CA has repeatedly sought to engage with the ACA in a genuine dialogue and to commence a proper negotiation process. It is regrettable that these efforts have been rebuffed, resulting in the current situation which CA recognises is not in the interests of either the players or the game. CA is concerned that many players will be without a contract from midnight tonight and this may place significant financial and emotional strain on them and their families.
"It is unfortunate that the ACA's hard-line and inflexible position has not been conducive to delivering any positive outcomes or certainty for players. CA has also been dismayed that the ACA's rhetoric, both publicly and directly to the players, has burdened the current generation of players with an unfair sense of responsibility for defending a decades old pay model that no longer suits the very different needs of the modern game. The existing revenue share model has achieved its purpose and was never intended to be an heirloom passed down over the decades, never to be changed."
The ACA's executive and a range of players, both domestic and international, are set to meet in Sydney on Sunday to discuss further action. The Australian women's team is currently in the middle of a World Cup campaign in England.
The ACA's president Greg Dyer said the expiry of the deadline was the result of CA's obvious intent to avoid negotiations on any terms other than the board's own. "Refusing offers of flexibility and to attend mediation says a lot," Dyer said. "As does the refusal of the CA CEO to be involved. It says they weren't fair dinkum. It has been a case of divide and rule from the start, and when that failed the threats started and haven't stopped. All of which has failed.
"It's quite incredible. Reasonable young men and women have been set upon by their employer with tactics not seen before in Australian sport. So, given they will be unemployed, the players have to consider how best to respond."
The ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson said the meeting with players on Sunday would address numerous issues, including the status of those players chosen for the forthcoming Australia A tour to South Africa. Players are meant to convene in Brisbane for a pre-tour camp on Monday.
"Given CA's negotiation strategy from day one of these negotiations, we have made plans for this possibility," Nicholson said. "We are ready to roll-out support to the players who need it. We have set aside funds to help players who need to pay their bills. And The Cricketers' Brand will now be sourcing sponsorships as well. The players also have some very important decisions to make. That's why an emergency executive meeting has been called."