Pay dispute pushes Australian cricket to brink of civil war
A week after the NRL saw Project Apollo land on the moon, Cricket Australia has had its COVID-19 game plan dramatically explode on the tarmac.
In scenes reminiscent of the ugly pay dispute of 2017, cricket is once again at war.
Contracts to international and domestic stars will go ahead unimpeded, but Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association are at loggerheads about the game's financial state and sources last night claimed that court action remained a possibility if an intense period of mediation can't resolve the standoff.
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In an email sent to players on Thursday night, the ACA claimed Cricket Australia's 48 per cent reduction in forecast revenue for the coming year was unacceptable at a time when chief executive Kevin Roberts has declared the $300 million Indian summer is a 90 per cent chance of happening.
Cricket Australia counter that the ACA's suggestion that the game's finances would somehow be immune from the impacts of a global reception just because it's the off-season is laughable, and their board led by Chairman Earl Eddings was due to meet on Thursday night.
The union which features Aussie superstars Pat Cummins, Alyssa Healy, Aaron Finch and Shane Watson on its board slammed CA for failing to act in "good faith" and accused them of asking for a five-day extension, only to ultimately deliver a forecast in a "short email" containing what was in their view, a "distinct lack of detail" for the magnitude of the cuts proposed.
As the NRL and AFL celebrate the conquering of the COVID-19 Mt Everest, cricket finds itself marooned at base camp and on the verge of a civil war.
"The ACA must now commence a more formal process of due diligence via good faith negotiation dispute resolution mechanisms contained in the MOU between the ACA and CA," said an email seen by The Daily Telegraph sent to members.
"The process is designed to shine a light on CA's reforecasts and forecasting process so that a clearer and more reasonable formulation of them can be established.
"To not allow this process would be to risk further damage to cricket, the game we all love, and its otherwise bright future.
"We confirm that players are free to enter into their playing contracts, based on CA's assurances and in the knowledge that the ACA is engaged in the further due diligence process."
What sets this escalating dispute apart from the 2017 pay war is that this time, some cricket administrators are essentially standing side-by-side with the players.
NSW, Queensland and Western Australia have also so far refused to accept Cricket Australia's calls for 25 per cent cuts, although further financial information has also been provided to them this week.
The Cricket Australia board and CEO Roberts are under mounting pressure the longer the damaging issue remains unresolved.
However, they are bemused at the level of hostility coming from the ACA, when player salaries will remain untouched for the next two years, unlike NRL and AFL stars who have taken immediate hits to their bank balance.
The ACA say players' will be individually impacted by the proposed cuts.
"Despite the claim that players' retainers, match fees and related payments will not be directly impacted over the next two years, the reality is that these new forecasts have the affect … of reducing the players' adjustment ledger by up to $86 million from the most recent "pre-coronavirus" forecasts provided - with a knock on effect to player payments, benefits and funds," the email said.
"They (forecasts) do not appear to be reasonable or consistent with an obligation of good faith, as required."
Cricket Australia says they're dealing with debtors not paying, lost revenue from the likely postponement of the World Cup and market uncertainty affecting various industries, including key partners and stakeholders.
The ACA maintain CA have gone off too early.
"From what the ACA has been able to determine so far, cricket is yet to suffer a significant adverse revenue event and the outlook for the game remains positive," said the email.
"If cricket does suffer an adverse financial event in the future - a reforecast can be provided at this time."
Originally published as Pay dispute pushes Australian cricket to brink of civil war