Pat Howard sidelined in MOU talks
Australia's team performance manager Pat Howard will play a reduced role in talks over the next payment deal between the players and Cricket Australia
Australia's team performance manager Pat Howard will play a reduced role in talks over the next payment deal between the players and Cricket Australia, with fellow senior executive Kevin Roberts set to work as the Board's chief negotiator.
The decision to sideline Howard arrived ahead of the formal start to the MOU negotiating period, on October 1, in which CA are expected to pressure the Australian Cricketers Association for a change to the fixed revenue percentage model that has endured since the ACA was formed in 1997. Australian players are entitled to a share of between 24.5% and 27% of annual cricket revenue depending on performance.
Howard was a leading figure in a pair of fractious pay negotiations over the past four years, debating the last MOU signed with the men in 2012 and then finding himself in several stoushes with the ACA over an agreement for women's pay earlier this year.
Roberts, who has been an industrious figure at CA since becoming the first person in history to resign as a Board director to join management, has been deemed better placed to deal with the ACA both as a personality - he played first-class cricket where Howard did not - and also because he is based in Melbourne where most talks will be held.
"Kevin will take a lead role and that's fine," Howard told ESPNcricinfo. "He heads up strategy and human resources and it makes sense to do industrial relations. I will be across it, I'm involved the whole way along. But you've got CA located in Melbourne, the ACA's located in Melbourne, I'm on the road a fair bit, so it makes perfect sense.
"I'm across the whole thing; I was the only one left who was sitting at the last negotiation so I have a reasonable amount of IP [intellectual property] in this, and I see what works on the road. So Kevin will take that role. It actually makes sense when you remove the personalities. I was there last time because it worked for the organisation."
There had been some scepticism among the players about Howard's dual roles as the senior executive chiefly accountable for the national team's performanc,e while at the same time bringing his forceful personality to bear in collective bargaining between the players and the Board.
"It was really challenging, but a role I'd done before," Howard said. "In many roles, your manager has to decide where your remuneration is but also be really positive about where you're going to grow. I'm very much a link between the playing group and CA, between the strategy and the team.
"I'm well aware I want to win as much as anyone and make sure the team has got the resources to win - how do we give ourselves the best chance of winning? I want to give the team the best chance of winning, and you try to do that for the best bang for your buck."
Since the 2012 deal, the ACA has lost its chief executive Paul Marsh to the equivalent role at the head of the AFL players association, and this year has also seen the departure of the head of operations Graham Manou to a talent pathway role at CA. The Board chairman David Peever was outspoken in favour of bypassing unions in negotiations with employees during his former role as managing director of the mining company Rio Tinto, and the chief executive James Sutherland gave little away when asked whether the fixed revenue model would be challenged in coming talks.
"I don't know whether it will be up for debate or not, but certainly from our perspective we'll take a position of having discussions behind closed doors," Sutherland said. "I certainly don't intend to go into detail as to what our position might be on the MOU at this time."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig