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Cowan, Slater clash on airwaves over MOU

03 July 2017

Cowan speaks to the media at the recent ACA fund-raising golf event // Getty

Andrew Ramsey


@ARamseyCricket

Andrew Ramsey


@ARamseyCricket

Ex-Australia openers Ed Cowan and Michael Slater have spirited on-air debate over current MOU impasse

Ex-Test batsman Ed Cowan has highlighted what he believes are the challenges facing domestic cricketers involved in the ongoing stalemate over a new Memorandum of Understanding and reaffirmed the stand-off centres on the model under which all players are paid and not the amounts they earn.

In a spirited on-air debate with fellow former opener now television commentator and breakfast radio host Michael Slater, Cowan refuted suggestions that state players who did not compete at international level or in the Big Bash League were well remunerated.

And he hit back at Slater's claim that the current impasse, which has seen a majority of Australia's professional cricketers fall out of contract and put a proposed Australia A tour to South Africa next week in doubt, revolved around money.

Slater claimed he did not understand the players' stated view that the revenue share model contained in previous MOU's, which Cricket Australia is looking to modify in the new agreement to grant players a share of surpluses instead, was integral because it enabled them to continue as partners in the game.

"I'm an ex-cricketer who got paid to play the game and I never walked out there thinking about whether I was a partner … because I felt like I was a partner and it didn't matter how my pay was paid," Slater said on Sky Sports Radio's Big Sports Breakfast in Sydney this morning.

"What is this partnership rubbish?"

Cowan, who played 18 Tests for Australia and was the leading run-scorer in last summer's Sheffield Shield season playing for New South Wales, disagreed and claimed the importance of players maintaining a share of CA's gross cricket-related revenue was to ensure the game remained strong at all levels.

He rejected Slater's view which he claimed was "seriously impeded by your job at Channel Nine" and noted that he felt the game in Australia was currently in good health "from a performance point of view … but not from an administrative point of view".

"It means that the game is in good health, it means it's being looked after," Cowan said when asked by Slater to explain how the revenue-share model allowed players to be more closely invested in the sport they played.

"I don't care about how much I get paid, but I think it is important that it is linked into the health of the game.

"What we are trying to do is provide a check and a balance against a governing body that likes control and likes autonomous control over every decision and every moment where every dollar goes.

"I think we've shown, not just us but the world, that dictatorships don't work.

"So what we're trying to do is create a genuine partnership so that the game can grow and prosper and there's a check and balance in decision making.

"What they (CA) are offering is essentially a surplus model with no control on costs.

"So that gives them complete control, they can go and spend as much money as they want on whatever they want and they've proven in the past that they don't spend money in the right areas."

Read more: Players to skip 'A' tour if MOU isn't signed

Asked about public perceptions in the wake of the ongoing MOU stand-off that players at all levels of Australian cricket are well paid, Cowan refuted claims contained in CA's proposal for a new MOU that the average annual remuneration for a domestic men's player was currently $199,000 and that figure had increased 53 per cent over the past five years.

Cowan, who plays Sheffield Shield and one-day cricket for NSW but has not appeared in the KFC Big Bash League since 2015-16, said the figure was misleading because it utilised average (total payments divided by number of players) rather than median (the annual figure that most players earn) salaries.

He claimed that around 70 per cent of players in the NSW squad would "be within 20 grand of the base contract" – currently an average of $87,000 a year according to CA – and that even when BBL payments were added the total payment is well below what has been publicly cited.

"The domestic players that CA sprout earn 240K a year, that is crap, the median income for a domestic player is under $100,000," Cowan said.

"You'd probably be around $150,000 for 12 months of the year, giving up a huge chunk of your life to dedicate yourself to something that you love.

"You are trying to play for your country, and you could do this for ten years and not play for your country and be 33, you've got no skills, you look up and you've been earning $120,000 (a year) for ten years.

"That is good money admittedly, but if you're trying to live close to the SCG because you've got to train, you're not getting ahead in life."

Read more: Players 'frustrated' with MOU stalemate

Cowan said the players, who confirmed yesterday they would not accept CA's invitation to take part in the scheduled month-long Australia A tour if a new MOU was not agreed to by Friday, were prepared to negotiate over the percentage of income they received under a modified revenue share model.

He said the players were open to discussing proposals to "lessen the share or rip out aspects of what accounts for player-driven revenue", but they remained committed to maintaining the revenue share model that CA is seeking to modify.

He also added that the Australian Cricketers' Association shared CA's belief that more money needs to be directed to grassroots cricket, but savings that allowed that to occur could be made from the money CA spends on administration rather than by altering the revenue share model that has been in place since 1997.

"We're at the coalface, more so than any CA employee," Cowan said.

"We go back to club cricket, we've got kids that run around in grassroots cricket, we know the struggles that are going on and we want more money invested there.

"But when you look at a company with 450 employees and a huge marketing department and a huge media department, we think 'where does this money go?"

About the Writer

@ARamseyCricket
Andrew Ramsey is the senior writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for the Guardian, The Australian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and the author of The Wrong Line.