Cricket Australia (CA) and the states have backed down from a threat to send out contracts under the terms of the pay proposal already rejected by the players, as the board and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) begin the difficult task of reaching an agreement ahead of the June 30 expiry of the current pay MoU.
ESPNcricinfo has learned that domestic players have been sent letters of intent, indicating whether their state plans to contract them for 2017-18 and for how many seasons beyond. However, the letters do not include any financial details, nor the contracts that usually arrive at the same time.
After weeks of public debate, both parties have switched firmly to “no comment” mode, as sure a sign as any that progress may finally be made. It echoes previous pay disputes where a rhetorical war has been followed by an agreement to move discussions in-house.
The letters of intent are a marked departure from the CA chief executive James Sutherland’s May 12 letter to the ACA, in which he said the contracts would be “consistent with CA’s proposal, and contracts will be conditional on a new MoU being in place.”
CA had already publicised its list of players to be offered central contracts for the 2017-18 season, with the team performance manager approaching five top players – the captain Steven Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins – to offer them multi-year deals in exchange for accepting the board’s terms and also forgoing the IPL for the next three years. It was an offer Warner has described as “laughable”.
State players on the fringes of each squad remain on shaky ground, with some asked to train with their states until more is known about how many places and how much money will be available to each state. Rookie contracted players, the entry level for many domestic cricketers, are in a similarly uncertain position.
However, the compromise move made to domestic players, as all state squads begin pre-season training this week, is an indication of a more moderate approach after months of bitter and public mudslinging between CA and the ACA, following the formal start of negotiations last November.
Legal representatives of the ACA met CA’s lead negotiator Kevin Roberts last week, with more meetings set to take place this week following the return of the ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson from England, where he met with members of Australia’s Champions Trophy squad and also attended FICA meetings.
ESPNcricinfo reported last week that CA wished to resume negotiations with the two parties discussing their areas of common ground to build better trust and working relationships before reaching the key area for contention – the board’s wish to dismantle the fixed revenue percentage model and the ACA’s to retain it.
The ACA then followed up by clearly stating that the players were open to discussing which streams of revenue they are entitled to under any future agreement, as well as other areas like shared risk and the carryover of “adjustment ledger” funds from one MoU to the next.
Nicholson and Roberts traded opposing views as early as Monday via a pair of newspaper columns, but have now set about the task of finding middle ground between their two wildly divergent positions. It remains to be seen how much of an agreement can be reached over the next 24 days.
Members of the squad for the women’s World Cup, which begins before the deadline but ends after it, are being paid for the term of the tournament, and a similar arrangement may be necessary for next month’s Australia A tour of South Africa should talks drag beyond the start of July.