The Ashes, under threat!    Getty Images
The Ashes, under threat! Getty Images

Cricket Australia said it had failed to strike a new pay deal with the players’ union ahead of Friday’s deadline, leaving players unemployed and threatening fixtures including this year’s Ashes. CA said there was no prospect of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) being resolved with the Australian Cricketers’ Association before the current deal expires at midnight local time (1400 GMT).

The impasse, following weeks of acrimonious dispute, throws into question the immediate future of almost 230 men and women players at domestic and international level, most of whom are now out of contract. “Cricket Australia on Friday acknowledged that a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will not be agreed before 1 July,” the statement read. “And repeated its call for the Australian Cricketers’ Association to come to the negotiating table and show genuine flexibility in the best interests of the players and the game. CA has been disappointed by the ACA’s unwillingness to consider the sensible and necessary change CA has proposed to the fixed share of revenue player payments model.” ALSO READ: CA sends letter to cricketers, warning unemployment over pay dispute row

Along with the players, fixtures are also at risk including Australia’s Test tour to Bangladesh from August, the one-day international series in India in September and the home Ashes series against England later this year.

CA and the players’ union have hit an impasse after the board attempted to scrap the 20-year-old arrangement of giving players a fixed share of revenues, in favour of dividing surpluses amongst elite players and offering a pay rise.

The Ashes threat

Leading players have hit out at the move to scrap revenue-sharing, with Australia batsman David Warner insisting they “won’t budge” and threatening strike action during the Ashes.

Following the missed deadline, players who are on multi-year contracts that go beyond June 30 will continue to be paid, and will be required to play and train as before. The Australia A tour to South Africa in July is the first in the firing line, with its fate unknown if a new accord is not struck. Players were due to assemble in Brisbane for training on Monday ahead of the South Africa trip. The first tour match is supposed to start on July 12.

Reports said CA could hand out-of-contract stars like Glenn Maxwell and Usman Khawaja tour contracts to play the series, although there is also the possibility of a boycott.

Australia’s women’s team are currently competing in the World Cup in England, but they have a special contract that will run until the tournament is complete. The ACA board and executive are set to hold a meeting in Sydney on Sunday where they will consider the players’ response to the lapse of the agreement.

CA’s updated offer, made last Friday, was rejected by the ACA which remains staunchly opposed to any move away from a revenue-sharing model. The players’ union released its own proposal last March under which the definition of revenue is broadened and players receive a smaller (22.5 percent) share.

That was rejected by CA, which said it retained the “inflexible”, income-based revenue model. Since then, negotiations have remained at a virtual standstill.

What happens next?

Key questions and answers as Cricket Australia and the players’ union were set to miss a deadline at midnight (1400 GMT) on Friday to resolve a pay dispute:

What is the sticking point? At the heart of the dispute is the revenue-sharing model that has underpinned previous agreements over the past two decades and under which players receive around 25 percent of Cricket Australia’s agreed cricket-related income. CA, seeking greater flexibility in using its resources, wants to scrap the arrangement and has instead offered to share surplus income among international players. The Australian Cricketers’ Association remains staunchly opposed, insisting the surplus should be shared among players at all levels.

What happens if there is no agreement? From July 1 most of Australia’s elite male and female cricketers will be unemployed, jeopardising upcoming tours to Bangladesh and India. The ODI tour of India in September and October is a potential money-spinner for CA given the financial reliance of all nations on the BCCI’s revenues. Ultimately the stand-off could affect cricket’s showpiece England’s Ashes tour of Australia later in the year. This creates uncertainty for broadcasters, sponsors, players and administrators.

Is the Ashes series under threat? The Australian government has said they would be prepared to step in to mediate between CA and the ACA if the pay dispute threatens the popular and lucrative Ashes Test series from November to January. Senior players have warned the Ashes series could be compromised if CA declines to meet their requests. In turn CA has threatened players with an Ashes ban should they take part in any kind of “disapproved cricket” beyond the expiry of the current MoU.

What do the players say? Australia’s vice-captain David Warner has been an outspoken critic of CA’s moves. Warner said the nation’s top players are prepared to go unemployed in order to retain the fixed revenue percentage model. Warner says the players are committed to ensuring all cricketers share in the game’s profits, not just an elite few.

Why is CA playing hardball? Discontent is simmering on the CA board about the revenue-sharing model. The body has undergone sweeping reforms of its governance and financial structures since former Rio Tinto managing director David Peever became chairman. Peever is an outspoken advocate of direct employer-employee relations and critic of “third-party” negotiations, hence CA’s more hard-line approach to the protracted dispute.