Contract dispute over April 26, 2006

West Indies board and players reach agreement

Garth Wattley

About a year and a half of difficult negotiations was finally settled in 15 hours of urgent talks which ended in the wee hours of yesterday morning. And West Indies cricketers finally have the chance to be covered by retainer contracts.

The major announcement was made yesterday at the Carlos Street, Woodbrook office of West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Ken Gordon by himself and West Indies Players Association (WIPA) boss Dinanath Ramnarine.

Addressing the local and Caribbean media, Gordon said eight to ten players still to be named by the WICB, would be put on a one-year retainer starting from May 1 this year.

He said in the interim, the 13 players selected to play against Zimbabwe in the seven-match one-day international series starting in Antigua on Saturday, would be given match/tour contracts. West Indies will be led by Brian Lara who it was also announced yesterday had been appointed as skipper for the third time.

Both sides, entangled in various tense contract and sponsorship negotiations since November of 2004, heralded the agreement as a landmark one.

"This is history for West Indies cricket," Ramnarine said. "For the first time we set out a framework to deal with disputes In the past we operated in a very ad hoc way. This framework really deals with the board and the players as equal partners. So we are equally responsible for the future of West Indies cricket."

Gordon praised the negotiating teams of both sides-the WICB's headed by Deryck Murray and which also included Desmond Haynes and Barry Thomas and the WIPA quartet of Ramnarine, David Abdullah, Kusha Harracksingh and Roland Hosein.

Murray, a founding member of WIPA and currently a WICB director, also expressed his pleasure with the final outcome. "It is great that we have reached this point in West Indies cricket at this stage. It is one of the steps that we need to put in place to help our cricket to move forward."

Murray, recently appointed to conduct the final phase of the negotiations which had been started by outgoing WICB CEO Roger Brathwaite, ventured further to say: "It's just one step and it's almost the beginning of a new relationship between the board and the players. The agreement is relatively easy to sign But making it work to the advantage of the players, the public, all the stakeholders of West Indies cricket is extremely important and it is the beginning of the process I think it's really the beginning of the resurgence of West Indies cricket."

Disagreement over the final terms of the retainer had threatened to disrupt the start of the Zimbabwe series, with the newly-constituted WICB Cricket Committee, headed by former captain Clive Lloyd, issuing two ultimatums for the conclusion of negotiations.

According to Ramnarine, at the heart of the impasse was the matter of compensation for the players over intellectual property rights. Describing the final agreement on the Memorandum of Understanding, code of conduct, retainer contracts and match/tour contracts for non-retained players as, "fair and reasonable," Ramnarine said that give-and-take on both sides was required.

"We have recognised the financial situation of the Board. We have also taken into consideration the position of the team, the performance of the team. There are some performance-based incentives which we have agreed to."

The WIPA boss was also moved to praise his WICB counterparts. "I have to say credit to the board. I've criticised the Board at times, but I think that you ought to be fair. And I think the Board has negotiated in good faith. Yesterday both parties compromised and were prepared to do that and hence the reason we were actually able to reach agreement."

In particular, Ramnarine paid tribute to outgoing WICB CEO Roger Brathwaite and former president Wes Hall for the roles they had played in framing the documents and initiating the process, respectively.

Neither Gordon nor Ramnarine would say what the contract package-inclusive of a lump sum and match/tour fees-would be worth. But Gordon said his board was determined to fulfill their responsibility. "We've had to make some assumptions. We hope those assumptions will be justified by events But we are committed to making this work."

And asked whether the retainer agreement could put an end to major disputes between the WIPA and the WICB, Ramnarine responded: "It's a fair statement What we did not have in place prior to these agreements was a mechanism to deal with those conflicts. What we have in place is a mechanism to deal with them. There are going to be issues that we disagree on no doubt it (But) we have found a way how we deal with them We just have to deal with it with mutual respect."