Sport Cricket Cricket Australia ready to call in umpire and accept “whatever decision” to end pay dispute

Cricket Australia ready to call in umpire and accept “whatever decision” to end pay dispute

Australia trudges off the field in Champions Trophy
The national men's team last played at the ICC Champions Trophy in England last month. Photo: AP
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Cricket Australia (CA) says it will take its bitter pay dispute with players to an independent umpire if it is not resolved within the coming days, urging players to “take up the challenge” and reach an agreement.

It has been at an impasse with the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) for months over its desire to dismantle a fixed-revenue-sharing system of player payments.

Chief executive James Sutherland said he hoped the issue would be resolved in coming days, but would take the matter to an independent industrial umpire next week if necessary.

“We believe now is the time for the game to get on, to get played, preparation for tours and the season ahead to happen,” he said.

“And to that end, we’re prepared to take residual issues to arbitration and we’re prepared to take whatever decision comes, in cricketing parlance we’re prepared to accept the umpire’s decision and move on.

James Sutherland
James Sutherland says the dispute needs to be resolved urgently so the game can move on. Photo: AAP

“We encourage the ACA and the players to take up that challenge and hopefully arbitration is not required.”

If the governing body decides it wants to go to an independent umpire, ACA must agree to it.

Sutherland all but took aim at the ACA for dragging its heels.

“I’ve had some increasing concerns just about whether everyone is going at the same pace and dealing with this issue with the same level of urgency,” he said.

He said if arbitration was needed, CA would offer to contract players immediately in the short term, while the finer details of the MOU were resolved and came into effect.

‘Cricket Australia has lost players, stakeholders’

In a statement, the ACA hit back, saying the governing body was trying to end a successful 20-year partnership without making a case.

“Now, after pushing the players into unemployment, an extended period of a lack of financial transparency, after three months of rejecting mediation and only after the recent arrival of the CA CEO into talks, CA discovers the need for urgency,” it said.

“Cricket Australia has lost the players and most of the game’s stakeholders in the process.”

The players’ union said it had been calling for independent mediation for three months, and believed it was the right process if an agreement is not reached.

It said arbitration was a more “adversarial process more akin to a court room” and was concerned the time it would take for a judgement to be made, but would consider the parameters put forward by CA.

“This is important because a mutually agreed outcome will be better for the future of the game rather than a decision imposed by a third party,” it said.

Tour of Bangladesh, India up in the air

About 230 male and female cricketers have been out of contract since the most recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) expired on July 1, and are not being paid.

There are 70 players with contracts that extended beyond that date who have been paid during that time.

Australia is due to play a two-Test series in Bangladesh in late August and there have been doubts about whether the tour would go ahead.

The ACA has previously said that even if a deal is reached, this summer’s home Ashes series beginning in November could also be scrapped.

Officials were forced to pull the pin on Australia A’s tour of South Africa because of the stand-off.

One of the most vocal players during the stand-off has been vice-captain David Warner, and he pointed the blame at CA on social media.

“This Baggy means the world to me. Myself and all the other cricketers female and male want to get out there and play,” he said on Instagram.

Pay shake-up to benefit grassroots: Cricket Australia

Amid the public bickering, current and past players have been united behind the ACA’s stance on negotiations.

He said the “modest changes” to player payments CA were pushing for would allow greater investment in grassroots cricket.

“[It] sorely needs it, in order for our sport to continue to compete against some of the wealthier sports around the country,” he said.

“We are looking at reviewing our whole business model, our whole operating model in order to allow investment in the grassroots of game, particularly in and around junior cricket.”

Sutherland said ACA had put forward what it had called a peace plan, which outlined $30 million that would flow to the game’s community level, but “the devil was in the detail”.

“Certainly as we do our analysis on that plan, we find that cricket as a whole is actually worse off and certainly our ability to fund greater investment in grassroots is compromised by the way that plan is put together,” he said.

The union said despite frustration at the way CA had handled negotiations, players had made important concessions in those talks.

Players have continued to train throughout the dispute, and the national men’s team is due to come together for a training camp in Darwin next week.