Former Australia Test captain Michael Clarke has urged the nation's professional cricketers to engage in an arbitration process if agreement on a new Memorandum of Understanding is not struck in the next few days.
As meetings between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association continued today in a bid to break the crippling impasse, Clarke claimed the players who became unemployed when the previous MOU lapsed on June 30 must get back on the field as a matter of urgency.
He said the current ICC world rankings that showed the Australia women's team, despite being bundled out in the semi-finals of the recent World Cup in England, is the only Australian outfit to be ranked number one in any format of the game.
Consequently, Clarke has deemed that the players' union would be "silly" to reject the prospect of arbitration to deliver an outcome if an in-principle agreement on terms for a new MOU can't be reached in coming days.
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Arbitration has been proposed by CA as a means by which players could be re-contracted even if a heads of agreement on a new MOU is not finalised this week, but the ACA sent an email to players yesterday outlining its concerns that arbitration might be a lengthy and expensive process.
"As a (former) player, I'm saying if a deal's not done by Monday afternoon allow it go to arbitration because we need this finalised," Clarke told Channel Nine's Sports Sunday program today.
"I believe this is definitely going to arbitration, and I think the ACA would be silly to say no to it.
"The players can't say no, the players have got to say yes because they’ve got to play.
"This (Australia men's) team cannot afford to miss one game of cricket if we want to beat England in the Ashes.
"We need to go to Bangladesh (next month), we need to go to India for the ODIs (in October), and then we need to play our best cricket to beat England in Australia, which I believe we will if we've played some cricket together as a team.
"The players are not CEO of a business or general manager of a business. That's not their responsibility.
"This needs to be done between CA and the players' association, and the players need to do what (they) know best and that's to play this game we love."
I also said I believe the Players (ACA) will win if it does go to arbitration. https://t.co/0M5gnB3Yyr— Michael Clarke (@MClarke23) July 30, 2017
CA Chief Executive James Sutherland announced last Thursday that he hoped a period of "intensive negotiations" over the weekend and tomorrow – meetings in which he has met directly with his ACA counterpart Alistair Nicholson – would see a deal in the nine-month dispute brokered.
However, if that was not the case he proposed that the outstanding matters that could not be agreed upon are sent to a mutually agreed, independent arbiter with a tight deadline placed on achieving a ruling, and with CA pledging to accept "the umpire's decision" to end the stalemate.
Once arbitration was agreed to, the 230 cricketers currently unemployed and unpaid would immediately be able to sign interim contracts under the terms of the previous MOU (men's players) or the new agreement that was detailed by CA last March (for women).
Sutherland also claimed that the most recent proposal put forward by the ACA revealed its desire to have a direct say in how CA invested money in grassroots cricket, a move that CA strongly opposes.
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The players' union has denied it wants to take on a role as a de-factor administrator, but believes the players "were right to seek improved consultation" in matters related directly to the game while echoing CA's hopes that a deal can be reached through the ongoing intensive discussions.
Clarke said that as former Australia player and captain 47 Tests and 74 one-day internationals, his sympathies tended towards the playing group that includes a number of his former teammates but he also had an appreciation for CA's position.
He pointed out that cricket has established itself as the best paid team sport in Australia, and that the impact of the ongoing dispute was no longer quarantined to Australia.
Clarke claimed it was now damaging cricket in nations unable to fulfil playing obligations such as South Africa (where an Australia A tour was scheduled for July, then boycotted), and potentially Bangladesh where players have resolved they will refuse to tour as planned next month unless a new MOU is in place.
Clarke said that regardless of the ideological views on either side, the matter should be played out behind closed doors and claimed that if players were to engage in the debate through social media channels that dialogue should come from his successor as skipper, Steve Smith.
"If the players are going to be involved, as they have been on social media, it needs to be led from Steve Smith the captain," Clarke said.
"As a player, I never felt like I was a partner in the business.
"I never went to James Sutherland and had a conversation about where we were spending the (money).
"I thought my job and my responsibility as a player was to do my job as captain, help the team have success on the field and then you share in the wealth.
"I always saw my role as an (employee) to Cricket Australia.
"They pay me to play cricket for Australia.
"But I think what the revenue share model does is allow the players' association, not necessarily the individual player, to have that conversation with Cricket Australia and discuss where this business is going."