Zimbabwe players' crisis

Statement by Clive Field on behalf of Zimbabwe's players

September 11, 2005

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The Independent article dated September 9, under the banner: "The Money Zim's Cricketers Are Refusing" is misleading, irresponsible and inaccurate. It is unhelpful to cricket in Zimbabwe and internationally. Zimbabwe's professional cricketers have asked me to respond to this irresponsible reportage on their behalf, as they are in the middle of the VideoCon ODI Triangular series and Croco Motors Test Series against India. Sensationalist reporting of their performance pay - stating they receive "over $500 million for a Test win''- is false, poorly timed and counter-productive to Zimbabwe's performance, both as individuals and a team.

We are involved in delicate contract negotiations with the ZC, and are not comfortable now having to respond in the Press. Our position as players is that our involvement with cricket should be concerned with events on the pitch, not those off it, but irresponsible media stories which misrepresent the facts and the events have reluctantly forced our hand.

The ZPCA wish to place on record the following facts at the outset:-

1. No cricketer representing Zimbabwe in the above program of international cricket is contracted by Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC). All 2004-05 National Cricket Contracts expired on August 31, 2005.

2. ZC purported to impose a one-month extension of the 2004-05 National Contracts by writing individual letters to what ZC termed those players involved on the "current tours", and indicated to them that new contracts would be offered from October 1, 2005. This was rejected by the players because no reasons were given for the extension. In law, extensions amount to a material variation of any existing contract, so prior consent is required from both parties because any contract is a binding consensual agreement. It follows that variation/s cannot be imposed by either party without prior agreement. In this case, consent was not sought by ZC, who simply imposed the extension.

3. ZC has subsequently undertaken to supply new contracts on September 14, backdated to September 1, 2005. (September 14 falls during the 1st Test against India.)

4. On September 1, ZC unveiled their Player Contracts Structure for the 2005-06 season, in terms of which they indicated in writing their intention to offer 12-month time-specific National Contracts to three players - Taibu, Streak and Blignaut - and 27 Level One Contracts. They also named eight Apprenticeships, to be attached to and paid by companies. Retainers on the 27 Level One Contracts ("monthly retainer") were set at $20 million per month gross across the board (i.e. there was no provision made within Level One for differentiation based on seniority or experience.) Retainers on the three National Contracts would be separately negotiated by ZC with the three individuals concerned, and the eight apprentices would be paid by companies employing them, subject to stipulation that ZC could call up any apprentice/s for national duty.

5. ZC refused a request by ZPCA to inflation-proof monthly retainers. The players had suggested "indexing" of retainers because Zimbabwe is suffering from hyperinflation and the contracts are for 12 months. Thus we requested that ZC link retainers to an agreed currency mechanism (i.e. equate the retainer to a "hard currency" and then use the Reserve Bank Official Auction Rate to track movements monthly and adjust the retainer in line with any change in the Auction rate.) ZC refused.

6. The ZC announced details of Match Fees and Incentive Performance payments for national matches, based on individual performance ie personal runs, wickets and catches.

7. On September 2, ZC advised our Player Representative in writing that they had reversed their intent to offer contracts to three players on the list of 27 - Stuart Carlisle, Barney Rogers and Neil Ferreira. They withdrew those offers without providing reasons. The players were told this on the eve of Zimbabwe's ODI v India. We agreed to continue with that match despite grave concerns, and asked ZPCA to write to ZC seeking urgent clarification for their action. No written response from ZC has been forthcoming. One player, Craig Wishart (who had been offered a Level One Contact) advised the National Coach, Kevin Curren, that he could not continue playing cricket because of this unfair treatment of other players by ZC.

Summary

For the record, this represents the current "state of play". In summary:

  • the Zimbabwe players are currently playing purely "on trust" and do not have any formal undertaking in writing from ZC guaranteeing the scope or content of future contracts; all we have is an undertaking from ZC to supply contracts on September 14. This is not a desirable position for us to find ourselves in, but we wish to stress that this is not a situation of our making, and we are in a weak position through no fault of our own.
  • We believe the contractual issues on the table could and should have been resolved by ZC prior to the two current ODI and Test series vs NZ and India. Nevertheless, our decision as players is to continue playing cricket because of our love of the game and patriotic pride, while urgent dialogue takes place between the ZPCA, our Player Representative and the ZC. Despite all of us being out of contract, to stop playing now could damage Zimbabwe's status as a Full Member of the ICC, and would embarrass ZC at a time when two ICC members have their national sides engaged on tours of our country. The players have no wish to tarnish the image of Zimbabwe. We see the game as being bigger than the players.
  • Four players have been lost to the cause, but we will continue to back them.
  • We remain committed to resolving cricket issues internally, through urgent dialogue between ZC, our appointed Player Representative and the ZPCA. The involvement of the Sports and Recreation Commission has been sought so a local solution can be found.
  • As professional cricketers, we maintain our concerns are well-founded, and our "demands" are fair.

    Going forward
    Through our Player Representative and the ZPCA, we continue to seek urgent clarification or resolution of the following list of seven concerns:

    1. Why have new contracts not been produced by ZC? No Worker should be compelled to work "on trust", as we are. Since Zimbabwe's Test v South Africa in March 2005, ZC have had five months to prepare new player contracts by August 31, 2005. ZC reneged on their undertaking to offer new contracts by August 19. Then ZC introduced a new demand, citing the need to ensure that new contracts were performance-based, and stated this would necessitate the redrafting of contracts, which would only be made available on September 14.

    Our position is that ZC had sufficient time to complete and finalize new contracts in advance of the expiry of those then in force. As Administrators, ZC may be entitled to set performance criteria for players but they too should have performance criteria to meet. Are ZC operating in good faith by with-holding contracts?

    2. The figures peddled in the press regarding Player's Match Fees and Incentives are sensationalist and designed to paint players in a negative light.

    Our position is that ZC appear content to use the media to sensationalize the sensitive issue of remuneration, but in doing so ZC should as responsible employers be required to qualify the Fees and Incentives quoted and to provide information which places the data in its international context.

    We must therefore set the record straight. By way of comparison, our information suggests that Match Fees in the SA national side six months ago were approximately four times more than those being offered to our national players now. Our studies also show that a National Contract Player playing national cricket for Zimbabwe for the next 12 months i.e "performing" on the international stage, at an average personal performance level will earn approximately 1/3 of the amount he would earn for playing English County cricket for one season, approximately six months. Is it any wonder why Zimbabwean players such as the Flower brothers, Murray Goodwin, Ray Price, Travis Friend and Sean Ervine are presently choosing to ply their profession abroad? We must put the position into its international context, because we are talking the business of Zimbabwe being in international cricket. International cricket is a market place.

    Playing cricket for a living has its own set of demands, and specific skill set and years of training go into producing an international cricketer, who must rise to the "big time" through the ranks of amateur ranks - where no, or at best low, pay is on offer.

    Further, we believe that ZC in publicizing these Fees and Incentives in "The Independent" should have pointed out that the figures quoted:-

    1. are "Gross", in other words subject to tax at one of the highest tax rates in the world; 2. have been over-stated by almost 50% by using an implied exchange rate of Z$35000 to 1 USD when the Official Reserve Bank Auction rate is 24,520; 3. are substantially incomplete because there is no information included pertaining to the Zimbabwe "A" Team or Domestic cricket competitions, the point being that only 11 cricketers will have the opportunity to earn the figures quoted, and then only if selected for Test or ODI duty. Furthermore, Test Wins, Test Hundreds and Ten wicket hauls are rare over an individual's career, especially in Zimbabwe. If incentives are not realistic, they act as disincentives.

    Finally it must be taken into account that the career of an international cricketer is not long, only rarely lasting beyond a decade. People in salaried employment may expect to work for 40 or more years. Player remuneration must be viewed and understood in this context. Zimbabwe Cricket has no Provident or Benevolent Fund for its cricketers, and does not offer benefit years or Golden Handshakes on retirement.

    3. To have meaning, any performance package must be predicated upon a published and agreed Fixture List, detailing the National Fixture program, "A" Team Fixture Program and Domestic Fixture program.

    As of now, ZC can only confirm one national tour for the 12 months ahead (West Indies - May 2006). No other definitive guaranteed information on future tours has been produced by ZC despite our requests. It is therefore impossible to determine whether sufficient fixtures will be available to give a realistic chance for every National, Level One and Apprentice player to earn Match Fees and Incentives. We await confirmation of the Test and ODI international fixtures which have been confirmed to take place between now and the West Indies Tour in May 2006, plus evidence of Zimbabwe's engagement in any A team competition (although the Duleep Cup in the Asian sub-continent and the Castle Bowl in SA have been mentioned).

    Without a clear and agreed match itinerary, any performance-based package is meaningless, just "pie in the sky".

    4. ZC has stated publicly that they are committed to "rebuilding cricket". The 2005-6 Contracts framework unveiled last week flies in the face of this.

    We say this because 10 National Contracts have been reduced to three. Further, the previous grading system (which recognized seniority and experience) has been abandoned and the reclassification of all except three National players in the same grade (Level One) is crude and not conducive to maintaining the much-needed experience of senior players in the game, players we might add who have won international matches in Zimbabwe colours. How can it be that their experience is no longer valued? Team work is all about blending youth and experience. To compete, one cannot only be fleet of foot, one must also be blessed with wisdom. We have information suggesting the National Grading exercise of players was concluded more than a month ago by ZC's Contracts and Grading Committee and was radically different in format to that unveiled now. Why?

    Our position is that ZC's 2005-06 contract framework is bad news for the future of player numbers in Zimbabwe, to the extent that it threatens the sustainability of professional cricket in this country. Thus, it jeopardizes the many years of hard work done by proud servants of the game in this country to gain us "Test status".

    5. The decision by ZC to withdraw its Offer of Level One Contracts to Carlisle, Rogers and Ferreira without reason and only one day after making them, is of grave concern.

    Our position is that this directly and adversely impacts player confidence. It reveals an administration which is at best incompetent, and at worst, a bully. In the continued absence of sound reasons from ZC, such action amounts to intimidation of the player body. As a direct result, it has already caused Wishart to withdraw his services. This reduces the Level One numbers from 27 to 23.

    We query how players are expected to "perform" when they are subject to such arbitrary action? Carlisle is the most capped International player on the Level One list, Rogers was the "Player of the Series" on the recent Bangladesh tour and Ferreira topped the batting averages in the last Logan Cup series and has just forced his way into the Test side. All are model professionals.

    While on this subject, we further question why ZC has overlooked players of the calibre of Nkala, Gripper, Vermeulen and Marillier in announcing the 2005-06 structure. What value does ZC place on experience, and the need to retain this in the system? What, if any, initiatives are ZC pursuing to entice players such as the two Flowers, Goodwin, Ervine, Friend and Price to return to Zimbabwe cricket?

    6. The $20 Million Retainer being offered to Level One players is inferior in real terms to that which was in place last year. ZC have also removed perks such as vehicles, DSTV and BUPA, all of which were in place on the 2004-05 contracts.

    Our position is that the monthly retainer is not a livable wage, especially when we do not have a guaranteed programme of international cricket ahead of us over the coming months. Subsequent discussions with ZC's MD Mr Bvute, has resulted in him proposing a reduction in the retainer from $Z20 Million to 15 Million.

    Our question is this - if ZC will not or can not pay a living wage, how will they attract and as importantly, retain cricketers in the game? More than 30 National players have been lost to Zimbabwe cricket over the past three seasons. Is ZC concerned by this trend? The player base is already dangerously small. In the absence of a living wage, both aspiring and established cricketers will be forced to leave cricket and find alternative careers. The player base needs to be stimulated and expanded, otherwise it will disappear. ZC needs to recognize and protect this valuable resource. Without cricketers, there will be no cricket! Without premium cricketers, our national side will not be able to win matches against other international sides.

    Full-time professional cricketers must be guaranteed adequate security for what is a short and risky career, in which they face the threat of injury, poor form and the vagaries of selection. Adequate security starts with a living wage. Performance packages are all well and good, but a realistic basic wage must be on offer in the first place. We maintain as Zimbabwean consumers that the retainers offered by ZC are not viable, when the effects of inflation and tax are taken into account.

    ZC has not been able to provide a Player Budget for the 2005-06 year to support the retainers they are offering. Surely this should be available - how otherwise was it sanctioned by their Finance Committee?

    7. If the player base is being reduced as is evident from the Contracts framework for 2005-06, is ZC Administration being similarly down-sized? Are payroll numbers in qdministration reducing or increasing? Under this heading, we include the separate but related issue of prioritization of spending by ZC.

    This area is not one in which we are entirely comfortable asking questions, because we do not have all the relevant financial information and also because in a general sense we realize that this is an issue of corporate governance, falling within the realm of ZC "Cricket Operations". Having said that, if we as players are being told to tighten our belts, what is ZC itself as an administration doing in the same vein? What salaries are being paid by ZC to themselves? If it is deemed by ZC to be in the public interest to splash players salaries around the Press, then presumably they have no objection announcing their own? We look forward to receiving details.

    On the issue of prioritization of spending by ZC, if it is true that ZC has purchased a new Outside Broadcast vehicle at a cost in excess of £1 million, when a OB Van could have been hired at a far smaller cost - we would question whether this is right and proper allocation of resources. Our concern is with items which impact directly on player performance, which we maintain need to be priority items on the shopping list of ZC - things we need to improve our performance in line with other international sides, like cricket balls, an assistant coach, a sports psychologist. ZC undertook to fund in full the costs of our Player Representative for 12 months, in order to allow us to get on with playing cricket. However, the incumbent Player Representative has received only one part-payment for services rendered since March 2005. This weakens our ability to bargain with ZC, and impedes our playing performance. We have faith in our Player Representative but if he is financially hampered from doing his job, this robs us of the external assistance we need in taking our concerns to ZC.

    Further, what spending commitments can ZC show in the vital area of "cricket development"? After all, cricket is owned by the people and ZC as its custodian, must ensure that it is doing all possible within its means and budget to develop the game by appropriate and transparent allocation of resources. Performances of the national side must be built on a proper grassroots structure which gets our kids playing cricket and affords them opportunities to be properly coached and developed.

    We are concerned that ZC should be held accountable for a set of performance criteria which measure its revenues and management of its finances in a transparent and responsible manner for the betterment of the game.

    ZC has insisted that they are cash-strapped, yet the bulk of their revenue generation is foreign-exchange denominated. It follows that in the past two months ZC reserves have increased in Zim Dollar terms on the back of Central Bank devaluations (9600 to 1USD to 17500 to 1 USD to 24520 to 1USD).

    This represents a cumulative 255% increase in reserves in the past two months alone.

    Conclusion
    1. The 2005-06 Contracts structure unveiled by the ZC is "radical", in the words of its Managing Director, Mr. Ozias Bvute. It establishes a new approach by ZC to the professional player resource which does not, we contend as players, properly understand or value the importance of this vital resource. The player base must be both large enough and skilful enough if strong competition is to be ensured. We would go as far as to state that the new structure actually threatens the future of cricket in this country.

    2. Further, we maintain that professional cricketers should receive adequate financial compensation, to ensure player numbers at the very least can be stabilized at their current critically low numbers, and then, importantly, grow by attracting new blood. Simply speaking, if cricketers cannot guarantee themselves a living as professionals in the game, they will be lost from cricket. This is not a threat, it is an economic reality. Player numbers need to be guaranteed by a robust approach to this resource by ZC. Inflation mechanisms need to be addressed by ZC because we live in a hyperinflationary economy. We have offered a creative solution, working forward for 12 months. If ZC does not accept this, then they should offer a solution of their own. They must confront the reality of the situation.

    ZC is the custodian of cricket, but cricket is owned by the people. Zimbabweans want our results to improve, so do we, and we believe that ZC do too. We share congruent objectives therefore. But strength and depth cannot be engendered in Zimbabwe cricket if professional cricketers, who must commit to work exclusively for ZC and play for their livelihood, are not guaranteed a living from the game. Cricket careers are short and risky. Adequate security must be on offer.

    3. The arbitrary manner way in which ZC has withdrawn its intent to offer new contracts to three players, only a day after listing them as Level One, requires a reasoned response in the interests of harmonious employer/employee relations

    In summary, although very concerned, nevertheless we see it as vital that we continue to play cricket while dialogue continues between ZPCA, our Player Representative and ZC. We desire to do well for Zimbabwe and thus to portray our nation in a good light on the cricket pitches of the world. Cricket is our life and we are proud to continue to represent our country, all we ask for is a work dispensation which is fair - which is to say, based on international cricketing norms - economically viable, and allows us to play cricket to the best of our ability at the highest level, on the international stage.

    Thank you.

    Clive Field
    Zimbabwe Player Representative

  • © ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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