$1.3m in Australian cricket salaries already lost in pay dispute

Off-contract Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc is understood to have signed an individual sponsorship with Audi.
CLIVE ROSE/ GETTY IMAGES

Off-contract Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc is understood to have signed an individual sponsorship with Audi.

Australian cricketers have lost A$1.2 million (NZ$1.3m) in salaries in the first fortnight of going off-contract in their pay dispute with Cricket Australia.

The funds have been redirected into the grassroots game as the sport's chiefs in Australia clash over the future funding model for cricket. The players' contracts lapsed at the end of June and since then their agents have been at-work sourcing new individual sponsorship deals.

It was revealed this week that fast bowler Mitchell Starc and batsman Usman Khawaja had found sponsorships with car manufacturers. These were different sponsors to Toyota, the vehicle sponsor of Cricket Australia.

The pay dispute between Cricket Australia and its players was showing no sign of ending soon as discussions between the two warring parties were parked on Saturday after a week in which there were mixed messages as to whether progress had been made.

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Players are of the belief there is still much work to be done, although the decision by CA chief James Sutherland to join negotiations this week was seen as a positive.

Amid much agitation from players as to why he had not been involved in discussions, Sutherland joined the table over the past five days, with intensive discussions with Australian Cricketers Association chief Alistair Nicholson over the past two.

However, the key agenda item – whether the players can retain the current revenue share model – remains a source of debate.

The players want to continue to be paid from gross revenue; CA wants to pay them now from a set pool with the ability to share in surplus funds. It is this mechanism which will determine how almost A$500 million (NZ$533m) in payments to players will be spread over the next five years.

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Just where increased funds to pour into the sport at a grassroots level will be derived is also a major issue.

Nicholson said on Saturday there needed to be greater urgency in negotiations, given players have been unemployed for a fortnight.

"The increased involvement of CA CEO James Sutherland has been pleasing. A better understanding has been established on both parties' positions," he said.

It's understood CA is of the belief that good progress has been made in discussions but is bemused why Nicholson had released a statement on Saturday, coming after both parties had recently allegedly agreed in a public saga - now in its ninth month - to avoid the media.

Negotiations are due to resume on Monday, it was understood Tim Cruickshank, the ACA's executive manager, will head to India on Wednesday to seek sponsorship and broadcast opportunities for players outside of CA's official partners.

Since the dispute began, fast bowler Mitchell Starc has signed with car manufacturer Audi, a rival to CA's official car company Toyota, which is listed among its so-called protected sponsors for the 2017-18 season.

Leading player agent Neil Maxwell, who is on the ACA executive, has emerged as a central figure in bringing CA and the ACA together.

There is growing impatience from industry figures, including CA director and Channel Nine commentator Mark Taylor, who has called for compromise.

The Australia A tour of South Africa was scrapped because there was no deal in place and next month's Test tour of Bangladesh is in doubt. There would be ramifications for CA and players if the tour was scuttled, for broadcasters would demand a refund.

Australia also has a one-day series in India in October before this summer's Ashes series.

Players have left open the option of being sub-contracted through the ACA for series but, should they do that, it could be seen as a step back in terms of fighting to maintain the revenue share model.

Nine is anxious for a deal to be done as this is the time of the year when the network is rubber-stamping sponsorship deals.

Unemployed players have the ability to seek payment from a hardship fund established by the ACA during this uncertain period. More than 200 players are uncontracted, with about 70 state players enjoying multi-year deals.

Players were aggrieved at recent statements made by CA chairman David Peever, coming at a time when negotiations had finally begun and were at a sensitive stage. 

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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