County directors call for 'urgent' review into standard contracts amid franchise exodus
Meeting at The Oval discusses impact of medical and staffing costs for players heading to global leagues
The directors of cricket (DoCs) at county clubs have called for an "urgent" review into standard contracts to address the "very real challenge" presented by their players representing several franchises during the English winter.
The majority of county cricketers are employed on 12-month contracts but the English season only runs from April to September, meaning that an ever-growing number of players are travelling overseas during the off-season to play in franchise tournaments.
Some DoCs - most notably Alec Stewart at Surrey - believe that counties are getting a rough deal, particularly for players who are only available for a small proportion of the season due to international commitments and involvement in the IPL and/or the Hundred.
"They go away and play elsewhere and when they come back they want time in the indoor centre, the benefit of the best coaches advising them on their game, just to get ready to go off and play in another franchise competition somewhere else," Stewart told Sky Sports earlier this month. "'Oh and by the way, I've got a little injury so can I get treated by the physio, the doctor, the medical staff and can I get rehab as well?'"
The DoCs met at The Oval on Monday and have since circulated a statement calling for representation on "any future performance committees or other appropriate working groups" so that the English game can "take advantage of our many years of amassed experience".
On the issue of player contracts, the statement said: "The current arrangement leaves the clubs with little control over their players' movements in the off-season, often leading to increased medical and staffing costs to ensure players are suitably prepared and rehabilitated, and there is clearly now the need for more flexibility in this area to suit both clubs and players.
"The number of players involved in winter tournaments has risen exponentially in the last four-five years and with the US Major League on the horizon, this is becoming a very real challenge for all involved. The group understands that the ECB, PCA and county CEOs also recognise the need for this review, and we would welcome the opportunity to have a direct input into these discussions."
A number of players are already on white-ball-only deals with counties, but the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) has warned that contracting more players only for specific windows will present "a real risk" to the sport. "It will create more white-ball specialists and could have a detrimental effect on the red-ball game and the Test team," Daryl Mitchell, the PCA's COO, told the Guardian. "And the men's Test team is what underpins the [English] game's finances.
"Take away the care package of coaching and medical support and it becomes very transactional. Players love having a 'home', but strip away those benefits and the big career decisions become easier for players - in the wrong direction.
"I understand the frustrations of the counties and players need to respect that side of it. We're also very aware the global landscape has evolved and contracts need to evolve with it. But I don't think contracting guys for six to eight weeks for specific competitions is the way to go. We have to protect the pathway."