A dispute between Cricket Australia and its state association owners over annual grants worth more than A$127 million (approx US$90.6 million) will be a priority item on the desk of the governing body's new chief financial officer, Samantha Douglas, when she begins the job next week.
In replacing the former CFO Todd Shand - with Paul Reining having served as interim - Douglas will be a key lieutenant to both CA's interim chief executive Nick Hockley and chair Earl Eddings as the board works to resolve the impasse with the states, led by their most outspoken dissenters in New South Wales and Queensland.
What makes the job more critical than most is the fact that trust about CA's financial position, and judgement about how best to chart a path forward, has been at the core of the disputes that have gone on more or less unabated since the governing body announced staff stand-downs and also requested significant financial cuts to the states and the players in April.
Douglas' arrival next week will be on the heels of an executive restructure confirmed by CA on Tuesday afternoon. Two executives, chief operating officer Scott Grant and public affairs chief Karina Keisler, will depart in the wake of former chief executive Kevin Roberts, with Douglas' role to be elevated in seniority after the fashion of the structure preferred by former CEO James Sutherland, who did not have a COO until Roberts moved from the board to the executive.
Kristene Reynolds has been promoted to replace Keisler, with the government relations department moving out of the public affairs realm to be reporting directly to the CEO, currently Nick Hockley. Government relations, a key area for CA in the time of coronavirus restrictions, is now headed by Joe Fennessy, after the long-time head of the area, Grant Poulter, exited to take a role with the Victorian state government.
Douglas, who is Melbourne-based, will bring a wealth of experience from the financial sector, where she has been employed in numerous roles at National Australia Bank, most recently as general manager financial control. Prior to joining NAB in 2006, Douglas also held roles with Village Roadshow and Macquarie Bank. Her predecessor Shand had been CA's CFO since 2016, when he took over from Kate Banozic after she had been part of the organisation for 16 years.
By contrast, it is a measure of the difficult times in which Douglas is starting the job that Roberts was CA's chief executive when the recruiting process was well advanced, before a raft of disagreements and fracturing relationships saw him resign in mid-June.
Since then, a financial confrontation with the Australian Cricketers Association has been successfully deferred until a fuller picture of Covid-19 impact on Australian cricket can be ascertained. However, the matter of dealing with the states has rumbled on despite plentiful conversations between Hockley, Eddings and their executive and board counterparts in NSW and Queensland.
NSW and Queensland rebuffed a recent offer from Hockley, which asked them to match CA on a percentage basis on reductions to revenue - calculated quarterly rather than being based on projections - up to 25%. The basis of rejection was that the previous offer only required them to part with 25% of their annual grants if CA revenue went down by 50%, a scale of shortfall now considered unlikely due to the announcement of full international, and BBL and WBBL schedules for the home season, including a lucrative India tour.
"I think there's some further discussions to be had," Hockley said last week. "Certainly there's a lot of good support from the majority of states and territories. What we're trying to do is collectively work through the situation in a very transparent manner based on what actually happens and work through it as a team."
The states and ACA disputes have brought numerous underlying discontents between CA, its owners and partners bubbling to the surface, to the point that constitutional reform of the CA board, to return it to some form of direct representation rather than independent directors loosely nominated by the states, has been raised as a possible option.
At the very least, there will be significant changes to board personnel later this year as the long-serving directors Jacquie Hey and Michael Kasprowicz step aside, the former having flagged her intention to do so late last year after being named chair of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.
The board nominations committee, comprising Eddings, NSW chair John Knox and Tasmania chair Andrew Gaggin, will also have input from the Queensland chair Chris Simpson after Kasprowicz's exit. This group will need to consider new additions to the board that are capable of taking over as chair, given that Eddings has a little more than a year of his three-year term remaining and has not yet declared whether he will want to serve another.