Simon Katich has attacked Cricket Australia over the board's claim that it is being generous by offering pay rises despite losing A$33 million over the early seasons of the Big Bash League. Katich contended that the announcement of the figure in CA's MoU offer to players was "either an MoU negotiating tactic or a serious case of mismanagement".
CA has invested heavily in the BBL since its 2011 inception, but at the end of its second season in 2013, announced an overall profit of A$1.5 million for "domestic T20 operations". Later that year, the board signed a five-year broadcast deal with the Ten Network worth $20 million a season, and the growth of the tournament on free-to-air television has led to widespread expectation its value will rise to up to $60 million a year during the next deal, due to be struck in 2018.
Upon hearing of the purported $33 million loss, Katich argued that such a claim needed independent investigation, and added weight to the players' claim for independent mediation to settle the present pay dispute. "The claims that CA has managed to lose money on the biggest success story in world cricket must be independently investigated," he said. "Record crowds, record ratings, record sponsorships and merchandising sales each and every year, yet CA are claiming a loss. It defies logic and good business sense."
CA countered Katich by asking why the players had not previously raised the issue when it was disclosed in the board's initial proposal last year. "The ACA were given this information six months ago, as part of Cricket Australia's initial MoU submission," a CA spokesman said. "They have not raised this issue once in that time, and it suggests they still do not understand that it takes 71% of cricket's total investment to run elite cricket.
"It also demonstrates why the current fixed-percentage model is hurting cricket, when the players are guaranteed a quarter of revenue regardless of the costs associated with putting on the game. The BBL, and now the WBBL, are an investment in growing the game. In particular, ticket prices have been kept low because the primary purpose is to attract more fans and families - and it has been hugely successful at that.''
The board's pay offer to the players, which it has pushed aggressively over the past week via media interviews and the release of a video featuring CA's lead negotiator Kevin Roberts, offers guaranteed amounts over the next five years but locks all players out of a fixed percentage share of revenue that goes up or down depending on the game's financial fortunes. International male and female players are offered a capped bonus system to access some of the game's blue sky, but domestic players have been offered fixed wages. State contracts in particular are indexed to rise by less than CPI (Consumer Price Index of inflation) over the next five years.
"It also defies logic that you would claim a financial loss, yet not recommend a model that shares the risk," Katich said. "It may well be an ill-conceived negotiation tactic, which itself is silly given mediation is the way to go. The BBL and WBBL provide the best platform to promote cricket to kids and families given they are turning up to these events in their hundreds-of-thousands over the course of the season."
Katich, who previously took aim at CA with considerable effect in 2011 after he was unceremoniously cut from the list of centrally-contracted players, asked how a game flushed with funds over the past five years could chronically under-fund grass roots levels of the game - something CA has argued is a cornerstone of their push to break up the fixed revenue percentage model that has been at the heart of pay deals between the board and the players for the past 20 years.
"The recurring question that keeps arising is, where does all the money go?" Katich said. "Is it drained by too much bureaucracy, executive salaries, entitlements and bonuses. One thing is for sure, it's not drained by either the players or grassroots investments, which together account for less than 30 cents in the dollar. I have called for a cap on CA administrative costs before and this is more evidence of the need for that. And it is also now clear evidence of the need for an independent investigation."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig