Australian cricket’s pay war has formally ended with the completion of the full MoU between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association for the next five years.
Negotiation and drafting of the full agreement took around two months, after a heads of agreement between the two warring parties was announced by the chief executives James Sutherland and Alistair Nicholson at the MCG on August 3. It is the first of its kind to include both women and men.
After 20 years of collective bargaining agreements adapted and expanded from the original revenue sharing deal struck in 1998, ESPNcricinfo has learned that the new MoU has been largely simplified and more smoothly codified when compared to the labyrinthine deal reached in 2012.
Its fundamentals include payment of 27.5% of agreed Australian Cricket Revenue to all players according to CA’s projections over the next five years, with players receiving 19% of revenue created above projections and grassroots levels of the game handed 8.5%. Should revenue exceed A$1.96 billion over the next five years, the players will receive 27.5% of that extra revenue. The use of the extra grassroots funding is to be decided upon by a joint committee featuring two representatives each from CA and the ACA.
The ACA, meanwhile, will continue to be funded by CA, though the money will no longer be termed a “grant” to the players association but instead a payment for the players’ intellectual property as used by the board for broadcasting, promotion and sponsorship of the game. The commercial wing of the ACA announced during the dispute, the Cricketers Brand, will continue its operations.
Pressure from commercial partners, and also the intervention of the federal government’s minister for sport, Greg Hunt, played a significant role in bringing the dispute to an end. Another factor was the looming possibility of CA not being able to send a touring team to Bangladesh for the ongoing Test series, after the players voted unanimously not to tour unless an agreement was reached. An Australia A tour of South Africa had already been cancelled for the same reason.
CA had entered the dispute seeking to end the players’ claims to a fixed percentage of the game’s revenue, a principle at the core of all agreements that had been reached since 1998. The board argued that the model prevented it from investing more freely in numerous elements of the game, particularly funds for grassroots junior and club competitions.
Also on Thursday, CA released its strategy document for the next five years, aiming among other things to make the WBBL the “undisputed leader of women’s sporting leagues in the world” by 2022. Also strongly prevalent throughout the strategy is the need for CA to provide the game’s fans with more of what they want, namely an increased amount of Twenty20, an aim that dovetails with Australia’s hosting of the women’s and men’s World T20 tournaments in 2020.
On a team performance level, the strategy document speaks of a greater focus on the shortest format of the game by developing “the leading talent pathway with a paradigm shift in alignment to the T20 format” and also ensuring that cricket can “transform into the best high-performance model in Australian sport, with ground-breaking use of technology”. All state associations have set the goal of significantly upgrading their own training facilities over the next five years.
The strategy also sets lofty goals for generating more money for the game, an aim thrown into sharp focus by looming negotiations for television rights deals both domestically – for international cricket and also the BBL and WBBL – and internationally, particularly the selling of rights to Australian cricket into the lucrative Indian market.
“Significantly grow media, digital and commercial revenue and develop more socially responsible partnerships,” the document states. “Increase revenue from international markets through innovative content, new partnerships and by reaching more of the global cricket family. Unlock the rapidly growing commercial markets for women’s cricket.”
“Storytelling” was another element to be touched upon in the document, which stated: “Cricket has a modern, positive and progressive voice in Australian sport and around the world. Storytelling makes cricket the highest profile and preferred sport for children, parents and grassroots communities. Our stories are relevant for women and girls, reflecting a gender-neutral sport. Cricket has the most inclusive and compelling stories, making our elite players the most recognised and respected Australian athletes. Australian Cricket has a clear identity that connects and inspires employees, who are empowered and harnessed as sport’s best storytellers.”
Sutherland declined to speak about the strategy, but last month indicated that this was likely to be his last MoU negotiation, having been chief executive since 2001. “We’re very pleased to be putting this one behind us and we’re looking forward to five years of stability,” he told The Project, “That [the next one] might be someone else’s problem I think.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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