Balancing the needs of the many with the needs of the few – should the Australian cricketers go on strike?

This is one of those court of public opinion issues with no simple solution.

Steve Smith – Photo by NaparazziCC-BY-SA-2.0

The current revenue-sharing model between Cricket Australia and all male first-class players, which has been in place since 1997 and elapses on 30 June 2017, provides for a fixed revenue stream of approximately 26 percent (of certain revenue streams). Further complicating matters is the fact that female players will also be included for the first time in the new agreement.

As that deadline approaches with no end in sight for negotiations, increasingly aggressive quotes are being aired publicly with both prominent players and key Cricket Australia officials involved. Cricket Australia is attempting to move away from the current model and claims the Australian Cricketers’ Association is refusing the current offer on the table of 22.5% for players with the balance of 55% to Cricket Australia for running the game and 22.5% to grassroots Cricket. Presumably the percentage of revenue will be further eroded by the bigger group of players (men and women) drawing from the pool of funds.

Cricket Australia is claiming everyone will be better off under the new deal by a significant margin, a claim disputed by the players. Cricket Australia rightly must balance the needs of the elite players with the promotion of the game, administering Cricket and funding grassroots. Administrators often draw attention to the large disparity between funds earned by elite sportsman and the average joe to weaken the resolve of disputing players. They’ve also highlighted the fact that most of their money is being generated by the Test, T20 and ODI games and that the State competitions are running at a massive loss. That really isn’t a shock to anyone. What is more shocking is that they are claiming the wildly successful Big Bash League is still to turn a profit, no doubt a product of establishment costs in the early years.

Players on the other hand have a narrow window in which to extract maximum remuneration, a window which can blow shut at any time depending on form and injuries. Players must essentially set themselves up for life after Cricket while also paying for their own support (sport’s agents, solicitors and financial advisors – and they don’t come for free). Their only weapon, apart from hiring effective negotiators, is to threaten a strike. Not much different from other industries really. They, much like their Rugby League brethren, are claiming ineffective administration is shrinking the pie rather than greed from the playing group.

It is deeply ironic in times like these because the rhetoric around any sport is usually about players and officials needing to uphold the reputation of the game at all times, something which seems to go out the window when pay disputes are in play.

There are certainly merits to both sides of the argument. I think the ordinary person finds it mildly interesting until the threat of strike action becomes imminent. The thought of a player holdout or our country putting out a sub-standard team will shock most lovers of the game. I’m not wanting to comment on strikes in particular but we do get a little hypocritical when it comes to professional sports payment negotiations. When it comes to our own lives we are quite content to maximise our income but take a dim view when professional sports players do the same thing, mainly because of the quantum involved.

Hopefully it is all worked out soon, certainly well before the Ashes!

Stay Tuned

Next exciting episode will be on Friday, 28 July 2017 titled ‘Dummies Guide to the NRL Salary Cap’.