Australian cricket’s state association owners have successfully pushed back against a Cricket Australia proposal to cut their annual grants by 45% amid the coronavirus pandemic. The governing body has entered fresh talks with the states and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) to clarify its finances and assuage fears that it faced the possibility of going broke by August.
CA’s chief executive Kevin Roberts sent shockwaves around the organisation and the wider game last week by announcing that all but a handful of staff would have their pay cut by 80% until the end of June, while similarly desperate messages had been directed towards senior players and managers, including grim tidings about apparent dives in the value of CA’s investments, listed as being worth about A$90 million in the most recent annual report.
It has since been clarified that from stocks to a value of A$22 million purchased in 2012, CA had seen their value rise to as much as A$45 million before they were pushed back to A$36 million by the financial shocks associated with the coronavirus outbreak.
At the same time, CA’s total reserves, augmented by the most recent installment in their six-year A$1.18 billion broadcast deal with Fox Sports and Seven, are far from exhausted. However, there is understood to be some concern about the likelihood of the next payments being made in September.
It was on that basis, in addition to worries about the scheduled men’s Twenty20 World Cup in October-November that precedes the India tour and the prospect of the Big Bash League and WBBL being played in front of empty stadiums, that CA proposed a 45% cut to the six states’ annual grants, which totalled more than A$127 million for 2018-19.
However a majority of the states opposed the 45% figure, partly on the basis that it would force further cuts to staff pay and employment than had already been made – including the South Australian Cricket Association’s removal of 23 staff and contractors from their payroll – before the end of June.
CA’s subsequent offer is for an initial 25% reduction, with inbuilt adjustments that may be made for events such as the cancellation of the India tour that would decrease the grant, or a successful staging of the same tour, which would likely increase it.
The states are yet to agree to this new model and further financial information is still being sought from CA, but there is at least the conclusion that a 25% cut would mean minimal need for state associations to immediately reduce their staff numbers and also allow debates to move on to scenarios for 2020-21.
In parallel discussions, CA and the ACA have been working on how to build in potential reductions to player pay under the principles of the fixed revenue percentage model that has characterised all collective agreements between the governing body and the players’ union since the late 1990s.
Similarly to the states, these changes would likely include a great deal of flexibility related to the possibility of India touring this summer or being compelled to cancel their plans due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Either way, it appears unlikely that there will be any improvement to the grim outlook set out by Roberts for shocked CA staff on Thursday last week, when the 80% pay cuts for all but a few staff until at least July were announced.
Considerable disquiet remains about this move, not only in relation to CA’s actual financial position, but also the potential savings it brings in – believed to be only around A$3 million – and the lack of forewarning given to staff during Roberts’ frequent video-conference briefings during the coronavirus period.