Cricket Australia Has Forgotten That Without The Players There Is No Game


At the beginning of this month, Australia’s elite cricketers
stopped being paid and the cricket pay dispute entered a new
phase. Two weeks on, it is clear that the two warring sides —
Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association —
are as far apart as they have ever been.

On Thursday 13 July, CA chairman David Peever commented in ‘The
Australian’
, accusing the ACA of being “reckless” and
stating that CA had made “what in any normal circumstances
would be regarded as a very generous offer”.

The following day, former politician and current adviser to the
ACA Greg Combet returned serve,
claiming that “without the trust and commitment of the players
in a partnership that benefits the game, Cricket Australia has
no game at all”.

A propaganda war is now being waged, aimed at winning the
hearts and minds of the cricket-loving public. It was perhaps
assumed that the broadcasters and sponsors would exert enough
financial pressure on both parties to solve this pay dilemma.
They haven’t succeeded.

Without the players there is no game. From
what has been made public in recent days, the ACA’s arguments
are far superior to those of Cricket Australia.

The genesis of the pay dispute

Under the captaincy of Mark ‘Tubby’ Taylor, two decades ago a
revenue-sharing model was agreed upon where income generated
would be carved up. Cricket Australia would pocket 75 percent
of the income generated and the players would take 25 percent.

Less than a year ago CA proposed a new model based on fixed
amounts of payment. The new deal also coincided with billion
dollar increases in revenue.

The main reason propagated by CA was to lift grassroots
participation, which it claimed was neglected and ‘chronically
underfunded’. In fact, the line has been held consistently and
CA have draped their concerns with pieties about grassroots
cricket.

There is no doubt that the pay dispute is simply about ‘greed’
and not related to the promotion of grassroots level sport.
There are two main justifications for this.

First, in the commercialised Australian cricket landscape the
players are now commodities. While cricketers play the sport
for a multitude of reasons, maximizing financial remuneration
is part and parcel. It is the players who generate the income
through broadcast and sponsorship deals. While I presume all of
them have an interest in the sustainability of the sport, it is
not in their job description to address grassroots
participation.

The players would argue that they promote the sport at the
grassroots level by being role models, both sporting and
social. They are there to inspire kids (both boys and girls) to
take up the sport and to promote the virtues of cricket
including the social and educational. Their success at the
international level in tournaments such as The Ashes or the
Women’s World Cup, and the publicity generated, promotes
participation.

Second, CA has a very mediocre track-record on promotion of
grassroots level cricket. Since the revenue sharing model was
adopted, cricket at the grassroots level participation has
declined.

The real focus of CA has been to commercialize the sport as
much as possible and generate new income streams especially in
relation to TV rights. Announcements of grassroots programs
have been limited and this has been reflected in the decline of
player numbers.

In many school systems cricket has been phased out of school
sport. In the recently released Health and Physical Education
curriculum it is not included as a mandated sport. Cricket
Australia have not been proactive in promoting the sport.
Cricket’s commercialisation has been the main focus.

It is not clear how the Australian structure must be changed to
better fund grassroots cricket. In fact, the financial details
of CA have not been fully transparent. It is not clear what the
individual senior executives and paid directors receive. The
ACA is asking to see how the revenue is carved up. This is not
explicit in CA’s annual reporting. Show the figures so we know
what is going on.

The End Game

It is 40 years since the establishment of World Series Cricket
ushered in the commercialisation of the Australian sporting
landscape.

Both sides of this current dispute are showing solidarity and
no visible signs of backing down. The Australian skipper Steve
Smith tweeted:

And last week the Australia A players abandoned their tour of
South Africa.

Around the corner there are commitments against Bangladesh,
India and an Ashes series. The cricket pay dispute in not a
mining dispute. Peever’s experience running Rio Tinto will not
help him. Without the players there is no game. From what has
been made public in recent days, the ACA’s arguments are far
superior to those of Cricket Australia.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA




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Cricket Australia Has Forgotten That Without The Players There Is No Game

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