A Fool And His Money


They say a fool and his money are soon parted.

Cricket Australia is hoping to get its hands on some money in the future. The always profitable Ashes series is coming, and in the next couple of years, Cricket Australia going to make a lot of money from selling the rights to the Big Bash League. The benefits of this league are so substantial that Channel 9 is reportedly threatening to not show test cricket unless it can show Big Bash as well. Cricket Australia can see a windfall coming: around $2.6 billion over the next five years.

james sutherland
James Sutherland: a fool?

This story has played out in sports more times than you’ve heard the phrase “it’s about respect for the jersey.” Last year it was the AFL who claimed poor when they began negotiations for the the women’s AFL pay rates. In 2011 the NBA owners, some of the world’s wealthiest humans demanded to reduce the players share of revenue, claiming they were all going broke. They then signed one of the biggest TV deals in history and are now swimming in cash a la Scrooge McDuck. The NFL had the same issue the same year with the owners locking out the players until they agreed to longer periods under team control before they can explore free agency. In a league where the average career-span of a player is perilously short, this basically mean entire careers now operate under team control, reducing the risk to the owners of actually having to pay these people to destroy their bodies and minds.

Rather than thank their lucky stars for increased income across the game, Cricket Australia is trying to end the revenue sharing agreement with the players that had split money between administration and players – basically ensuring that the governing body got around 55 per cent of revenue to administer the game.[1] Why? It’s not clear. Cricket Australia has occasionally uttered ‘grass-roots’ but never really explained what that means. It certainly doesn’t mean more money to the domestic game – Cricket Australia’s main aim is reportedly to reduce payments to shield cricketers. You can somewhat understand this from a coldly rational perspective. Shield players don’t directly generate money but do generate cost. Maybe it means more money to junior cricket? It’s not clear.

Unlike the NBA or the NFL, Cricket Australia is actually bargaining from a position of weakness. Unusually for sporting competitions, the employees can actually earn more money playing for other competitions. The players have recognised their strength and maintained impressive discipline in the face of Cricket Australia’s inept attempts at pushing their agenda through.

Cricket Australia has sought to ‘divide-and-rule’, offering the international players longer contracts and more money in an attempt to get them to sign-off on the reduction of wages for their domestic colleagues. The international players showed remarkable compassion to not put their own wages ahead of those of their state colleagues. Of course they were castigated by the reactionary media who claimed David Warner was rich. David Warner is actually very rich. And he would have been made richer by accepting Cricket Australia’s pay deal. He would have also been doing so at the expense of less well-paid colleagues. Saying no makes him a good bloke in my book.

The shame here is that only the player’s association is actually considering the long-term health of the game. For the last decade every cricket thinker in this country has bemoaned the importance of a competitive first-class cricket competition to ensure the success of Australia’s international cricketers. Yet Cricket Australia seeks to undermine that institution by making the wages of domestic cricketers less competitive.

Cricket Australia also said they wouldn’t pay the players after June 30. To which the Australian cricketers said fine, then we won’t play. The good people of Australia were outraged. How dare someone refuse to perform labour for no compensation? Outrageous. Most consider the players have a responsibility to the public to ensure the Ashes goes ahead. They do. They have around 20 per cent of the obligation. Cricket Australia has around 55 per cent by my count. That’s how revenue sharing works. You share the responsibility to grow the game.

You can claim David Warner and Mitchell Starc were too blunt when they suggested they wouldn’t play the Ashes if they weren’t going to be paid. Maybe they were. But they’re not bargaining representatives. At worst they can be considered complicit in James Sutherland’s inept handling of the matter.

The funny thing is that the relative strengths of the bargaining parties means that this will all be resolved well before the Ashes. Cricket Australia, in full knowledge that they have no power to pursue this agenda because of the players power, will give up their desire to end the revenue sharing agreement. The players will agree to continue to revenue sharing agreement at the current levels, and all levels of the game will get more money when the Big Bash dollars flow through the game.

It’s not complicated. You’d have to be a fool to mess it up.





[1] The rest went to the players, split between the international (around 20 percent) and the domestic groups.

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