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Uncertainty over Aus A tour as deadline looms

Players due to assemble in Brisbane in Monday ahead of South Africa tour but MOU stalemate remains unresolved

The likelihood of the proposed Australia A tour to South Africa next month remains unknown with no meaningful movement in the stalemate to negotiate a new Memorandum of Understanding, which is due to come into effect this weekend.

Despite India today naming a 16-man squad led by batsman Manish Pandey for the limited-overs tri-series that is scheduled to follow Australia A's proposed pair of four-day engagements against the Proteas, it is unclear how the MOU stand-off will impact the tour due to start July 8.

The Australia A squad, captained by Test batsman Usman Khawaja, is supposed to assemble in Brisbane next week to begin pre-tour preparations, but with a handful of members likely to be out of contract if a new agreement can't be reached the make-up of the touring party remains unclear.

A majority of the players in the squads for the four-day and limited-overs components of the planned tours have multi-year contracts with their state associations, and will therefore continue to be employed even if the current MOU expires at tomorrow's end of financial year.

However, a meeting of players that is planned in Sydney on Sunday to discuss the Australian Cricketers' Association's response should the agreement lapse, and a bulk of contracted cricketers become unemployed, could dictate how or if the tour goes ahead.

With barely 24 hours remaining to strike a deal, both parties remain at loggerheads.

Read more: CA reveals terms in case of MOU limbo

Cricket Australia is committed to modifying the current model whereby players receive a share (around 25 per cent) of agreed cricket-related gross revenue, and replace it with a recently revised offer to divide a portion of surpluses among all players as well as deliver pay rises for men's and women's international and domestic cricketers.

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

That was, in turn, rejected by CA because it retained the "inflexible" income-based revenue model to distribute payments and since then negotiations have remained at a virtual standstill.

CA has issued repeated requests for the ACA to begin negotiations to make a start on the many items of mutual agreement contained in the 600-page MOU document, but the players' union has indicated it won't enter negotiations until CA shows its preparedness to retain the revenue share model.

In return, the ACA has twice called for an independent mediator to be engaged to progress talks – which CA dismissed on the grounds it would be "extraordinary" for mediation to take place before negotiations had formally begun – and last week insisted that CA's CEO James Sutherland become directly involved in the process.

As a result, and with virtually no likelihood of a breakthrough being achieved before tomorrow's midnight deadline, CA's Executive General Manager Pat Howard prepared a detailed run-down of how players might be directly affected if there is no MOU in place come the weekend, and a majority of them become unemployed.

Howard's email, which was sent last night to the ACA and state high performance managers to be disseminated to contracted players (except women currently involved in the ICC World Cup in the UK who were to be briefed by team management) was to address a number of misconceptions aired in recent days.

In particular, during a media conference at the ACA's golf day in Sydney to raise money for a players' hardship fund where questions were asked about the status of existing multi-year contracts held by state players and the ability of all players to continue training should an MOU agreement not be reached.

Howard clarified that should a deal not be signed before Saturday, players who are subsequently out of contract and are therefore not obliged to undertake training are able to do so should they wish at CA and state practice facilities, provided they are aware of and observe existing health and safety requirements.

He also advised that those players with multi-year contracts for state and/or Big Bash League (and Women's BBL) – around 70 of the 300 or so players currently signed to CA – will continue to be paid under the terms of their deal regardless of whether an MOU agreement is negotiated.

Last Tuesday, ACA president Greg Dyer told reporters he was not certain those existing contracts would be valid come July 1 given they were entered into under the pay model contained in the current MOU that expires at midnight tomorrow.

"To the extent that the revenue-share arrangement is off the table, then those contracts are highly questionable," Dyer said.

However, in his email – which was reproduced in full by News Corp Australia today – Howard reaffirmed that players with current multi-year contracts will continue to be paid in line with those agreements.

He also noted that if those players were to sign the new contracts offered earlier this month contingent on a new MOU being signed, they would continue to be paid under their existing arrangements even if no MOU agreement is reached and the offer for the new deals therefore expires.

"You will be required by your State Association or BBL team to play, train, and perform player appearances, and otherwise continue to act as required in your existing contract," Howard wrote.

"This includes the ongoing requirement for you to submit any personal endorsements to CA for prior approval."

Read more: Uncertainty around 'new cricket world'

For those players who become unemployed if a compromise cannot be reached in the MOU stalemate– including the 20 men's international players who were last April offered national contracts – the landscape is significantly different.

While Howard confirmed there will be no 'lock-out' from training facilities, he also reiterated that ICC regulations stipulate that contracted players require a No Objection Certificate from their governing body before they can participate in overseas tournaments such as South Africa's new T20 Global League that launches in November.

That condition, introduced ostensibly by the ICC to prevent players from sporadically making themselves unavailable for national representation in order to play in lucrative domestic T20 franchise competitions, applies to formerly contracted players for up to two years after they announce their retirement from the international game.

Howard advised players that applications for NOCs would be treated on a "case by case" basis, and he also pointed out the ICC's ruling that "players who participate in disapproved cricket (e.g. exhibition matches) are not permitted to participate in ICC approved cricket for a minimum of six month thereafter".

When asked last Tuesday if he foresaw the issuing of NOCs becoming a problem for players who fall out of contract if a new MOU is not signed, former Test allrounder and current ACA executive member Shane Watson indicated it could become grounds for a legal battle.

"If Cricket Australia knock back an NOC then that's a significant restraint of trade," Watson said.

"I've got a Big Bash contract and of course I've got to get an NOC signed but for them (CA) to be able to restrict my potential to actually play and be employed somewhere else … I think there would be some pretty serious legal issues there."

Howard also confirmed that if no deal can be thrashed out and the around 200 players not on multi-year contracts become unemployed, they will not be entitled to back pay for the period between the current MOU expiring and a new one being signed.

"If a MOU is agreed on or by 14 July (the date of CA's next monthly pay cycle), your playing contract would only commence from the date the MOU is agreed," he wrote.

"CA does not intend that retainers would be back paid to cover any elapsed period between your current contract expiring and the execution of a new contract when a new MOU is agreed."

In addition, Howard indicated that all players – whether on multi-years deals or contracts that expire tomorrow night – will be provided with a list of CA's "protected sponsors" who, under the terms of an operating MOU, are quarantined from having players endorse their commercial rivals.

"Any player entering into unapproved endorsements during any uncontracted period puts at risk future endorsement arrangements with CA, State and W/BBL partners and puts you at risk of not being able to enter into a contract for the upcoming season with CA, the State or W/BBL Team," he wrote.

Malcolm Speed, a former CEO of the then Australian Cricket Board and later the ICC, claimed players needed to accept that the financial landscape from which the original MOU was hewn 20 years ago had altered markedly.

Adding that the revenue-share model, introduced during his tenure at what is now CA, was not intended to be enshrined as the sole method by which players were paid for ever more.

"The players are entitled to ask for revenue-sharing to continue, but they have to recognise that a lot has changed," Speed, now executive director of the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports, told Fairfax Media today.

"No one said then the new system will be there forever. That’s unrealistic. Things have changed. Cricket has changed significantly.

"It doesn’t make sense for the cricketers to say, 'We like this model, we want to stick with it come hell or high water'."

However, Dyer told last Tuesday's media conference that while negotiations over the MOU remained stalled the ACA had not been provided with a strong argument from CA as to why the revenue share model required modifying.

He also claimed the players had shown a preparedness to be flexible in presenting their own proposal, despite maintaining that any move away from the revenue share model remained unacceptable.

"The case for change has not been presented in any way, shape or form, let alone in a compelling fashion," Dyer said.

"We want the present form to continue and we think it's very, very important for Australian cricket that is so.

"The players have been very flexible, they have said they can look at alternative ways of addressing that revenue share model, we can be flexible but we've not had any response in return."

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