Australian cricket's long and bitter pay dispute is over, paving the way for the Test tour of Bangladesh to proceed later this month.
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland and the Australian Cricketers' Association CEO Alistair Nicholson announced the new agreement at a joint press conference in Melbourne on Thursday afternoon. The agreement ends a 10-month negotiation process that became bitter and acrimonious as Cricket Australia sought to dramatically alter the existing pay model by which players shared in the game's revenue.
Australia's international cricketers and many domestic players have been unemployed since July 1, after CA and the ACA failed to agree on a new Memorandum of Understanding before the expiration of the existing deal. However, those players who were out of contract will be provided with back-pay when the full MoU is completed.
The agreement means Australia can honour their upcoming international commitments, including the two-Test tour of Bangladesh, a limited-overs trip to India, and the home Ashes to follow this summer. Sutherland said it was "a great shame" that Australia A's scheduled tour of South Africa did not proceed last month, but he was pleased that no other elite cricket series had been affected.
Sutherland said the deal would allow all state and international cricketers to be contracted immediately, and would mean an increase in pay that ensures Australia's international players will be the highest-paid of all team sports in the country. The agreement also includes what Nicholson described as "the biggest pay-rise in the history of women's sport in Australia".
"Today's agreement is the result of a sensible compromise from both parties," Sutherland said. "From Cricket Australia's point of view, we needed to modernise the pay model to provide us with more flexibility to deal with issues facing the game as they come up from time to time. In this regard, the under-funding of grassroots cricket and junior cricket is our highest strategic priority.
"We also wanted to introduce a gender equity pay model for women's cricketers, so that they can also pursue a career in cricket. The ACA and Cricket Australia are delighted to be genuine market leaders in Australian sport in this regard.
"This process hasn't been easy, and history will judge whether it was all worth it in the end. Neither side has got everything that we wanted out of these negotiations, but they shouldn't be approached with a winner-takes-all mindset.
"There's no denying that the debate itself has at times been difficult and even acrimonious. Relationships within the game have been tested, and I know that's been a bit of a turn-off for some fans. I think I can speak for Alistair when I say that both parties acknowledge and regret that, and now it's very much up to us to put that behind us. In announcing this agreement, we're restoring certainty and beginning to repair relationships, especially with the fans.
"I'm very confident that by the time the first ball is bowled this summer, all of this will be well and truly behind us."
Details of the new agreement include: a modernised revenue-sharing formula by which the players will receive 27.5% of forecast revenue; an increase in female player payments from $7.5 million to $55.2 million; and an adjustment ledger that allows funding for grassroots cricket if revenues exceed $1.67 billion.
"It's a very different revenue share model to what was previously the case," Sutherland said. "It's been modernised to allow the game more flexibility. The guarantee of player payments is formed on a certain basis. We've talked about bringing women's cricketers into the pay model for the first time. Beyond that, where revenues exceed a certain level of income, it allows the grassroots of the game to share in those surpluses as well."
Nicholson said the players had fought hard to retain a revenue-sharing model because they believed it had worked well in the past.
"To have retained the revenue-sharing model and increased the level we have and ensure that men, women, domestic and international players receive a fair share is great news for the players and for the game," Nicholson said. "It's right that all players, men and women, will be partners in the game because that's a fair outcome. It ensures a game with all parties pulling in the same direction.
"Success in this negotiation for the ACA was achieving revenue sharing for all players, gender equity, fair remuneration increases, greater input on scheduling and more grassroots investment. We have achieved those things, and on that basis, we recommend to the players that the deal be accepted."
The ACA president, former Test wicketkeeper Greg Dyer, said in a statement that the agreement was ground-breaking for Australian sport
"One MOU for men and women, the maintenance of the partnership model, and record investments for grassroots cricket is what we wanted and it's what has been achieved," Dyer said. "The men and women have been rewarded for sticking together and for having the courage of their convictions. They have made history and created a legacy for generations of players to come.
"In particular, I want to acknowledge the sacrifice of the Australia A team which demonstrated the depth of the resolve of the players to support each other. We also congratulate the players who have bravely made the case in the public domain. It will be important that they are respected for having the courage of their convictions.
"There is also a reality to confront. Yes, we've arrived at a great place but the game must never again take this same route. The players did not choose this route and did not enjoy being on it. In fact, the players resented it deeply. This was not a fight the players started. The players defended themselves as is fair and as is their right."
The acrimonious nature of the negotiations leaves Australian cricket in need of significant bridge-building in the coming months and years to repair the damage caused to relationships within the game. Sutherland said he was hopeful that both parties could put the dispute behind them.
"Time will tell on that," Sutherland said. "I'd like to think that in many ways, it's good sport and we can all shake hands at the end of it and move on. It's been difficult at times for lots of people, and we've all been dragged into the middle of it in one way or another. The important thing is to look forward … I'm really confident that those relationships will be strong. It's our job as administrators to support the Australian players and those in state associations as well."