The split in Australian cricket caused by the impasse over negotiating a new Memorandum of Understanding leaves the game in its most parlous state since the World Series revolution of the 1970s, the players' union claimed tonight.
In a statement released two hours after Cricket Australia acknowledged the existing MOU would expire at midnight tonight without a replacement deal in place, the Australian Cricketers' Association confirmed the players' body will meet in Sydney on Sunday to discuss a more detailed response.
Among the issues that will be canvassed at that extraordinary meeting will be the availability of players for the Australia A tour to South Africa scheduled to begin on July 8, and the employment rights for the 200 or so players who fall out of contract and are therefore unemployed as of Saturday.
"This leaves the game in the worst state of uncertainty since the days of World Series Cricket," the statement says, in reference to the breakaway competition engineered in 1977 by Kerry Packer when his television network was denied broadcasting rights by the then Australian Cricket Board.
ACA Chief Executive Alistair Nicholson said tonight the union had planned for the possibility that no deal would be reached "given CA’s negotiation strategy from day one" and had put in place a number of measures to deal with the associated contingencies.
Among them have been the establishment of a players' support fund to lend direct financial assistance to those out-of-contract men and women.
And the creation of a wholly-owned company The Cricketers' Brand that will be able to broker commercial deals for players whose intellectual property will be no longer be controlled by CA in the absence of a signed MOU.
In their statement released earlier today, CA claimed the ACA had declined repeated attempts to begin formal negotiations over a new MOU and expressed concern for players and families who may face "significant financial and emotional strain" when faced by unemployment and a lack of income.
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CA has also reiterated that the revenue share model of player payments, which remains at the heart of the stalemate, is out of step with the demands of modern cricket administration and needs to be modified to best serve the interests of cricket at elite and grassroots levels.
The ACA remains strongly opposed to a shift away from a sharing of gross cricket-related revenue, and tabled their own 'win-win' model that delivers equal portions to players and grassroots funding (22.5 per cent respectively) with the remainder for CA to stage, market and administer the game.
ACA President Greg Dyer said tonight that with acknowledgement from both sides that the midnight deadline will lapse with no new agreement in place, it appears that CA "harboured little genuine intent" to negotiate an outcome on terms other than their own.
“Refusing offers of flexibility and to attend mediation says a lot,” said Dyer, who twice called for an independent mediator to be engaged but was rebuffed by CA who claimed it would 'extraordinary' for mediation to begin before any meaningful negotiations had taken place.
“As does the refusal of the CA CEO (James Sutherland) to be involved.
“It says they weren’t fair dinkum.
“It’s been a case of divide and rule from the start and when that failed the threats started and haven’t stopped.
"All of which has failed.
"It's quite incredible.
"Reasonable young men and women have been set upon by their employer with tactics not seen before in Australian sport.
“So given they will be unemployed the players have to consider how best to respond."
The ACA statement notes the players are "disappointed and frustrated" and adds the impasse over a new MOU that will cover the next five years means "broadcasters are placed in an unfair predicament since with Australia’s best players now uncontracted, there may be no cricket to broadcast".
Among the other issues to be discussed at Sunday's meeting of the ACA executive, which includes current Australia ODI players Moises Henriques and Aaron Finch, will be the potential restrictions on players taking part in overseas competitions and exhibition matches in line with current ICC regulations.
And the preparedness of uncontracted players – who have been advised by CA that they will be granted access to state association practice squads and facilities if they require it – to continue training if they are not being remunerated.
The ACA will announce the decisions reached by the executive body in the wake of Sunday's meeting.