Battleground: Cricketers questioned over grassroots initiative

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 26: n Cricketer’s Association CEO Alistair Nicholson speaks to the media outside the SCG after players gathered after the Phil Hughes Accident yesterday on November 26, 2014 in Sydney, . (Photo by Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media)’s top cricketers have proposed a $600 million grassroots seed fund but Cricket has questioned where the money will be derived in the latest pay dispute battleground.

As part of a plan which has gone under the radar, the n Cricketers’ Association wants $119 million a year put towards junior and community cricket, as part of the 22.5 per cent of revenue it says should go towards that crucial area of the sport.

CA plans to spend between $55 million and $60 million a year – an increase of $15 million per year – at a grassroots level under its submission in a new memorandum of understanding, sparking questions as to how the ACA plans to fund the added $60 million it wants to spend.

The ACA proposal also has 22.5 per cent of revenue going to player payments and 55 per cent to CA.

The players say their plan “prioritises the investment in grassroots cricket by protecting 22.5 per cent of these revenues for it, including the creation of an estimated $119 million per year, five-year ‘Grassroots Seed Fund’ to secure cricket’s future; leaves an estimated $1.5 billion (or 55 per cent of these revenues) with CA for cricket administration over and above player payments and protected grassroots investment”.

The ACA says the grassroots plan should be done in conjunction with a cap on CA’s administrative costs, as Simon Katich reiterated this week.

“As a result of this set allocation to grassroots, cricket achieves a ‘cap’ on CA’s administrative costs of approximately 55 per cent of revenue … to ensure that cricket in prioritises the right level of investment in grassroots and fair remuneration of all players,” the ACA said.

CA has questioned this plan, declaring the added funds could only come from either slashing CA staff needed to administer competitions such as the Sheffield Shield, Women’s National Cricket League and Matador Cup, axing initiatives such as the recent “boot camp” for elite under-18 cricketers in Thredbo, or slashing player payments.

“The ACA’s proposal would require significant cuts in some of these areas but the ACA doesn’t say which should be targeted,” a CA spokesman said on Friday.

“The ACA’s proposal would make the inflexibility of the revenue-share model even worse. It would effectively pre-commit 45 per cent of n cricket’s gross revenues to just two areas, regardless of the costs of generating that revenue.

“No business could operate with that lack of flexibility and no other business does. The ACA’s proposal attempts to fix one problem, the underfunding of grassroots, by making another problem, the inflexibility of a fixed gross revenue-share model, much worse.”

The ACA has rejected these claims, declaring there would be enough of the $2.6 billion they project in total cricket revenue to spread around.

“I don’t think we’ll need to cut anything,” an ACA spokesman said.

This comes amid an argument between players and CA over projected revenue. The ACA says CA is set to receive $2.6 billion over the next five years, excluding the Twenty20 World Cup in in 2020.

CA, however, says it’s difficult to put a specific figure on revenue, as 80 per cent of revenue is uncontracted. CA will soon officially go to market for new international and domestic television broadcast rights, while a rich deal with an Indian broadcaster will also be brokered.

Suburban clubs contacted by Fairfax Media say they just want a fair deal that will enable more development coaches and an upgrade of facilities. Cricket Victoria chief Tony Dodemaide is one state boss sweating on funds to hire more development coaches, an area the AFL dominates in Victoria.

CA’s submission says “cricket currently lags behind the AFL in terms of full-time grassroots resources, with only 171 full-time employees versus AFL with 450-plus [according to CA internal estimates]”.

It’s understood comments made by Steve Smith in England ahead of ‘s opening match in the Champions Trophy have also raised eyebrows. When asked about CA’s claim that the ACA’s insistence of a revenue-share model would harm grassroots cricket, Smith said: “I’m not sure I completely agree with that. If we look back at the last MOU I think players gave back $10 million to grassroots cricket, which is quite significant.”

It’s understood CA has questioned whether that money was given only to Premier cricket clubs – which are community based – and whether those funds had been fully distributed. The ACA said that money was spent in several development areas.

The CA board of directors met in Brisbane on Friday, where the primary focus was a new five-year strategy set to be unveiled within months. The focus is on all areas of the sport, including women and grassroots.

The board was given an update on the MOU spat but it was not an official agenda item.

ACA chief Alistair Nicholson has spent the past week in England discussing the pay issue with players, who are still calling on CA to appear at mediation in a bid to get negotiations going ahead of the June 30 stalemate.

But CA maintains unless the ACA drops its insistence on a revenue-share model, mediation is pointless. The ACA has offered “flexibility” to a degree in what is “open to a discussion of what is in and what is out of shared revenue streams” – but that is unlikely to cut it with CA.

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