David Warner warned that the Ashes could be in danger, as Australia’s elite cricketers take a stand in defense of a revenue-sharing model that protects domestic players.
The potential strike by Australian players over contracts could force a global rethink on how the world’s top cricketers are rewarded.
The Aussie opener, David Warner, this week warned that the Ashes could be under threat as a result of the intransigence of Cricket Australia, who want to end the revenue-sharing model that has been in place for two decades.
The players, for their part, want that model to continue despite being offered a salary hike by their sport’s governing body back in March.
Domestic cricketers in Australia’s Sheffield Shield would be hit hardest by the move, with Alastair Nicholson, the chief of the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) expressing fears that young players would turn their back on First Class cricket and focus their attention purely on Twenty20, cricket’s most lucrative format.
It’s at the top end of the game, though, where the ramifications of the hard-line stance taken by both sides could be most keenly felt – something the ECB will be all too aware of.
“What’s happening is going to impact a lot of players’ associations one way or the other”, says Irish. It’s going to impact the international environment too. There is a constant struggle between international cricket and the movement of players to the leagues. A lot of boards around the world are in a fight to retain their players.
England and Australia have been insulated from that for quite a while because they’re big enough boards who are able to pay their players well and keep them playing international cricket despite the trend of free agency, which we’ve seen happening widely elsewhere.
As a board you want to make sure that you retain your best players, that’s where their first loyalty lies. Cricket Australia is moving to a situation where their players are no longer a stakeholder in the game – if you wanted to retain those players you would think they would be moving in the opposite direction.
“Everything is moving in the direction of the T20 leagues”, says Irish. Broadcasters and commercial stakeholders are putting their money there because the leagues are attractive and, crucially, have context and are filling stadiums. England is a little bit different because Test cricket is so strong in England.
Administrators need to be working as hard as they can to improve the international product, making sure that Test cricket is as good as it can be. Players also need to be fairly paid for playing Test cricket. England produces very good T20 players and a lot of their players are in great demand.
Central contracts have been a strength of Australian cricket because they ensured that players would prioritize playing for Australia above anything else. If you asked any player, then they would still like a central contract model but they have to be properly remunerated and all the restrictions and obligations have to be balanced. In many respects, the Twenty20 option is a much easier path than the Test cricket one, too.
I’m sure everyone is watching (events in Australia) but this is about a principal and the players are, quite frankly, insulted that Cricket Australia is trying to break what has been a successful partnership.
I think a lot of the cricket authorities will be looking at this to see whether the players end up getting a better deal in Australia because that’s the sort of thing that could create a domino effect.
The lack of flexibility of some of the current central contracts needs looking at and resolving.
The burning question at the moment is whether there will be an Australian side to face.
Does it need to be sorted out sooner rather than later because if these players are no longer under contract then what do you expect them to do? They’ll go and find other opportunities.
Everyone is hoping this gets resolved because it’s in no-one interests for the Ashes to be ruined as a result. That would be catastrophic for Test cricket.
That’s something that everyone can surely agree on.