Tim May, one of the architects of the first collective bargaining agreement between Cricket Australia and Australia's cricketers, has challenged the board to provide better justification for its desire to end the fixed revenue percentage model that has remained in place over the past 20 years.
In an exclusive ESPNcricinfo column, May took issue with CA's contention that the model had "done its job" of ensuring international male players were the best paid in the country while domestic players are paid competitively relative to other sports. While lauding movs to raise pay for women, he questioned why it had been determined that domestic players in particular must now be locked into a wage.
He did so while noting that every major sport in the United States - where May has been based for more than a decade - makes use of revenue sharing models, invariably offering the players a far higher percentage of revenue than the figure of around 26% Australia's cricketers have been entitled to since that first deal was struck with the Australian Cricketers Association in 1998. May wondered why CA wished to break it up at a time when domestic players were about to provide a greater share of the game's revenue - via the Big Bash League- than ever before.
"For the past two decades CA and ACA have built a culture of players and administrators working together to grow the game and share in its success - but now with this success moving to a new level, one party no longer wants to play ball," May wrote. "The stakes here are high. CA's position threatens to set back by decades the relationship between players and administrators.
"To change the system so radically, it needs to provide a valid and compelling argument. The onus is on the board, not the players. CA needs to explain why, for 20 years, the revenue-sharing model has worked so successfully and yet now it suddenly can't work. It's a tough one for it because, as far as I can see, there really isn't a valid argument."
In 1998, May worked alongside James Sutherland, then commercial manager at what was then the Australian Cricket Board, to sort out the finer details of the deal that has remained in place with minimal changes over the past two decades, most of which have seen Sutherland in place as CA's chief executive.
Having observed the way the game is changing, particularly via the emergence of Twenty20 leagues across the globe, May argued that the model is now more valuable than ever, providing the players with a genuine stake in the game down under that helps to dissuade some from simply pursuing T20 competitions year-round. At the same time it means the cost to CA rises or falls depending on the total amount of money being raked in, rather than putting pressure on the board in the event of a tour cancellation, or the boycotts like the one threatened by India in early 2008.
"The uncertainty of projected revenues was one of the main reasons that the ACB agreed to the introduction of the revenue-sharing model in the first place," May wrote. "It's of massive benefit for them. Ask any business if they would like to make their largest expense variable and I suspect they would jump at the chance. For CA to imply that the shared risk-and-reward ideology is outdated is nonsense. Far from being obsolete, it is more relevant now than perhaps any time in the past 20 years.
"Scheduling disputes, unforeseen circumstances and uncertainty around ICC distributions can play havoc with projected revenues, placing CA in danger of not being able to meet other obligations, such as development of the game. In 2008, when the Indian team threatened to go home after the Sydney Test, CA faced a revenue black hole amounting to tens of millions in TV rights.
"Uncertainty to do with global issues is a genuine concern. These days we have heightened security challenges and the spectre of terrorism. There is the possibility the international cricket schedule could be affected, leaving Australia in a bind. These are valid and sensible current arguments to keep player expenses in line with the fluctuations of revenue."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig