Australia’s elite cricketers will be officially unemployed on Saturday after a breakdown in talks to secure a new pay deal.
Cricket Australia (CA) acknowledged there would be no agreement before the current deal expired at midnight, meaning almost 230 cricketers will be out of contract.
With the exception of 70 domestic male cricketers, Australia’s domestic players — both men and women — are off contract as of 12:01am July 1, though participants at the ongoing Women’s World Cup in the United Kingdom will be paid for the duration of the tournament.
It was hoped CA chief executive James Sutherland’s return from England could break the impasse between the two bodies, with high-performance manager Pat Howard and negotiator Kevin Roberts having led CA’s talks with the players’ association.
The sport’s governing body said the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) had refused to “show genuine flexibility in the best interests of the players and the game” during the lengthy negotiations.
“CA has been disappointed by the ACA’s unwillingness to consider the sensible and necessary change CA has proposed to the fixed share of revenue player payments model.
“The model was adopted 20 years ago to address the underpayment of players. The game has changed fundamentally since then: players are now justifiably well rewarded and the modern challenge is the chronic under-funding of the grassroots of the game, particularly junior cricket.
“CA believes this challenge can be met while still rewarding players very well for their undoubted contribution.
“CA and the State and Territory Associations are responsible for the health of the whole game, not just the elite level where more than 70 per cent of all CA funding is currently directed.”
One of the biggest stars of Australia’s national side, Josh Hazlewood, appeared in a video on the ACA website on deadline day.
He said it was “hugely important” to the players that more money be filtered through to state players and female players and said they had the right to feel disrespected by CA.
Of the 70 domestic male players still on multi-year contracts, they will have to choose to strike to retain solidarity with their locked-out colleagues.
If currently uncontracted players want to train, they will not be prevented from accessing the Australian cricket training facilities and staff.
The ACA said the players were expected to turn up, unpaid, on Monday as an act of “incredibly good faith”.
The players’ association now has an executive meeting in Sydney on Sunday, where it will discuss player availability for the Australia A tour of South Africa.
Players face Ashes ban
Australia’s cricketers also face up to the prospect of being unable to play in ICC-sanctioned, money-making events like the Indian Premier League, lest they face an Ashes series ban.
The potential for exhibition matches has been discussed among players, with the option of taking part in global Twenty20 events also on the cards.
But Howard sent an email on Thursday to the ACA which said bans would be enforced for those taking part in “disapproved cricket”, adding that players could not take part in ICC approved events, like the Indian Premier League, without CA approval.
With the Ashes due to start in November, any ban would rule that player out of the series.
Players were also told any delay in reaching an memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreement from July 14 would mean they would not get back pay for the elapsed period.
The ACA has set up a hardship fund to support players in financial need — all except international men — covering all female players and male state-based players.