Cricket Australia chairman David Peever has strongly criticised the country’s top players for their stance in a long-running pay dispute, and accused the player’s union Australia Cricketer’s Association (ACA) of a “reckless strategy that can only damage the game.” He also slammed others for being made into a victim of “personality focused myth-making.”
Peever took over as CA chairman in late 2015 and said the sport’s national governing body has made a “very generous offer” to the players. “The ACA has responded by not only rejecting that proposal (and recent concessions) out of hand, but by launching a campaign of such sustained ferocity that anyone could be forgiven for thinking CA was proposing the reintroduction of slavery rather than healthy pay rises,” Peever wrote in The Australian on Thursday.
“Not content with that level of over-reaction, the ACA has gone much further. Refusing to allow players to tour, threatening to drive away commercial sponsors and damage the prospects of broadcast partners … it’s a reckless strategy that can only damage the game and therefore the interests of the ACA’s own members.”
Peever and Cricket Australia want to erase the revenue-sharing model that has helped determine payments to players since the first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the administration and the Australian Cricketers’ Association was put in place two decades ago. The latest agreement expired on June 30, but with the CA and the union remain deadlocked, it has left about 230 players unemployed.
The matters got even more out of hand last week when players pulled out of an Australian A tour of South Africa. This has further put the two-Test tour of Bangladesh scheduled for the end of August and early September in jeopardy. The bigger hit, if things remain the same, will be the five-Test Ashes series against England beginning in Brisbane in late November.
Stars from yesteryear have urged both sides to find a compromise and reach an agreement but even there there is no consensus on which side should relent. Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland reportedly met head of ACA this week – getting involved in direct negotiations for the first time – but there was no official word on the outcome of the meeting.
Australia captain Steve Smith, however, has remained resolute in the players’ stance and said there was no chance of the players folding. “I’ll say what we as players have been saying for some time now: we are not giving up the revenue-sharing model for all players,” Smith said in an Instagram post. “But, through the ACA (we) are willing to make important changes to modernize the existing model for the good of the game. We are and have always been willing to make those changes.”
In their defence, Cricket Australia have said that the current revenue-sharing model takes funding away from community clubs. “The suggestion that CA’s push to modify the player payments model has nothing to do with genuine issues facing the game is an insult to everyone involved at CA, including other members of the board,” Peever said. “Even worse, it disrespects all those from across the cricket community who have flooded CA and me personally with messages of support because they see first-hand the chronic underfunding of the game at the grass-roots level.”
In his earlier comments, Smith said the players “have always been willing to make those changes … for how the model can be adapted for the even greater benefit of grass-roots cricket, which is after all where we all started.” But he said that can’t be at the expense of the professional players. “I have been fighting for a fair share for state players who are also partners in cricket,” Smith said. “I know from my career that when I was dropped (from the Australian team) in 2011 if I didn’t have a strong domestic competition to go back to, I certainly wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in today.”
He also pushed for his female counterparts to be covered in the same deal. Cricket Australia has paid the women’s ICC World Cup squad in advance for the ongoing tournament in England, where they’ve reached the semifinals. “As women’s cricket gets bigger and bigger in Australia women players must also be able to share in what they will be earning,” he said, adding “it’s time to get a deal done.”