Australia's pay fight endangers international game
With domestic T20 leagues gaining traction across the world, Cricket Australia's approach to the pay dispute has added risk to the future of international cricket, according to the former ACA chief executive
Australian cricket's custodians are "crazy" to be creating added risk for the future of international cricket at a time when the game has become a seller's market due to the influx of domestic Twenty20 tournaments.
That's the view of the former Australian Cricketers Association chief executive Paul Marsh, who broke his silence on the union's pay dispute with Cricket Australia after inking a new collective bargaining agreement for the AFL players' association this week.
Marsh, who left for the AFLPA in 2014 and was central to the most recent MoU signed in 2012, specifically attacked CA over its attempt to carry over money from the former deal to this one. He stated that the previous carryover only occurred due to the signing of a one-year "rollover" deal in 2011 that included a summer featuring an India tour - by far the most lucrative series Australia plays in.
"We could have paid the players 26% of the money from that year, but what would have happened was a massive increase for that one year, and then a decrease for the next year and so on," Marsh told ESPNcricinfo. "It was only done that way so the player payments were evened out rather than what would have been irresponsible and unfair to most of the players, spiking one year then going down the next.
"I'm incredibly frustrated, as someone who did the last deal and helped convince the players to put $20 million of their own money [from the 2015 World Cup] back into growing the game, the players took a very responsible decision to invest back into the game. There wouldn't be another professional sport in the world where the players took that decision, yet the very next MoU the players are told 'we don't want to give you this revenue percentage anymore'. I find that incredibly disrespectful and unprofessional in my view.
"For CA to use money from this MoU that the players have earned - despite the fact they've given $20 million back - and then try to say, 'we're going to take more money out of what we have to pay you and put it into the next deal', it's just contemptible from where I sit."
Given how the cricket landscape has changed due to T20 tournaments, the most recent South African event that will clash with the Australian domestic seasons, Marsh was mystified as to why CA would choose to fight an industrial relations battle when many other nations look enviously at its 20 years of smooth and loyal player relationships.
"I think it's crazy," Marsh said. "For the services of players, cricket is now a seller's market. The players can choose where to go, and that's a reality the AFL doesn't have, players can't pick up their trade and go somewhere else. But the cricketers can, and for the majority of countries now they can make a lot more money doing that than playing international cricket. I think international cricket is at risk of falling over if the big countries have a period for whatever reason where they don't play international cricket."
Having worked through an exhaustive negotiation with the AFL that for the first time links the payment of players to the game's revenue - 28% of projected AFL revenue, 28% of AFL revenue above forecast and 11.2% of club revenue - Marsh took a dim view of how CA had approached its dealings with the ACA, in particular withholding financial information. He said that the board had previously given detailed financial forecasts to the players association, and that the AFL had done likewise to help reach their own deal.
"No players' association can responsibly represent its members if you don't understand what the financial forecasts look like," Marsh said. "Historically CA - and the last MoU in 2012 was the best - gave us incredibly detailed and rigorous financial forecasts for their business, for the state associations and for the BBL teams. The reality of it is that your forecasts will end up being different to your actual results, almost by definition it is impossible to look five or six years into the future and get that absolutely right.
"But in CA's case they have to be accountable to something, and that's why the percentage model is so important. If the actual revenues of the industry end up being different to what the forecasts are, then you've got something you can tie the players' payments to. A share of revenue could be more or less than what it has been, that's all part of the discussion, as is what goes in and what goes out, but it's about tying what the players get to the actual revenues of the game rather than what the forecasts are. There's no accountability for CA if they don't."
Addressing CA's contention that the revenue sharing model made it impossible to invest in new projects to grow the game, Marsh cited how the new AFL deal meant that players would not have any access to AFL revenue derived from a stadium the league is still paying for, as an example of the flexibility that should exist between two parties communicating effectively.
It's now a win-lose scenario and in my experience, if you're going to have a relationship with someone, win-lose just doesn't work
Marsh predicted the dispute would reach a crucible around the ODI tour of India in September and October, a commitment that he doubted CA would risk given the financial reliance of all nations on the BCCI's revenues. But he reasoned that even in the event of a deal being struck, trust between the players and the board had now been majorly damaged.
"Cast your mind forward to a deal being done," he said. "CA's approach here is purely and simply trying to bully the players into an outcome that CA want, 'we won't give you the financial information, we won't give you this model, here's our deal, take it or leave it', that's been the approach to this point. How can it possibly be seen as a 'win-win' here.
"I can't see how, and from a human behaviour perspective you just ask who's going to agree to that then, how will the players say 'we're happy with that deal' and the same for CA. It's now a win-lose scenario and in my experience, if you're going to have a relationship with someone, win-lose just doesn't work.
"Cricket's not going that well that it can afford to throw itself open to this. As much as CA will claim it is Australia's favourite sport and all that, now I've been removed a bit, it doesn't get the column inches that other sports get, it isn't necessarily in the consciousness of the Australian public like it used to be, and I just think it is a very dangerous game to play."