CA, ACA agree terms to end pay dispute

In-principle agreement signed after final round of face-to-face negotiations in Melbourne on Thursday morning

Ten months in the negotiating and 34 days after it was due to be delivered, the in-principle agreement for a new Memorandum of Understanding reached today brought claims from both parties that their ambitions had been met.

Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland told this afternoon's media conference in Melbourne that the pay model for the next five years as outlined in the Heads of Agreement was "very different" to the previous iterations that CA had looked to modify.

The model is described in the Heads of Agreement as "player payments and revenue sharing principles".

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His Australian Cricketers' Association counterpart Alistair Nicholson said the fact that all players continued to be included in a form of revenue sharing under the new deal, combined with other key elements such as greater input into scheduling and grassroots investment, meant it represented a "success" for the players' union.

While the deal represents only an in-principle agreement around which both parties will continue to negotiate the 700-page MOU document, they agreed that today's breakthrough enabled players to return to the playing field and provided certainty on upcoming series including the five-Test Ashes summer.

It is understood that players, who are required to vote in favour of adopting the Heads of Agreement in order for negotiations to continue, were sent a 15-minute video by the union tonight to outline the terms that would be covered by a final five-year deal.

However, Nicholson told a media conference in the wake of the agreement being reached that measure was an ACA protocol that dictated they "conduct a player vote in the next 24 hours to follow past precedent, but we expect that to come back positive".

Both parties also expressed confidence that the strain the difficult negotiation process and accompanying public commentary has placed on relationships between players and administrators could be repaired, but agreed it would require some work over coming weeks and months.

"Relationships within the game have been tested and I know that's been a bit of turn-off for some fans," Sutherland said today at the close of almost a week of intensive negotiations.

"Both parties very much acknowledge and regret that.

"I'm very confident that by the time the first ball is bowled this summer all of this will be well and truly behind us.

"Both parties have a lot more in common than we don't, we all care deeply about the game of cricket.

"These are milestone agreements, they are complex and it's understandable that at times they will be difficult.

"I would like to think that in many ways it's good sport and that we can all shake hands at the end of it and move on."

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Nicholson acknowledged that the divisions that had opened up between the ACA membership and CA would not immediately disappear with the signing of today's agreement, but he hoped that continued communication between the parties would help to heal those rifts.

"I think that will take some time, but that's something that we will now work through together for the good of the game," he said.

"We'll continue to focus on that in the coming months and years ahead."

The key elements of the Heads of Agreement, with negotiators continuing to work though the fine details to deliver a completed MOU within the next 4-6 weeks, are:

• An MOU that, for the first time, includes all contracted international and state men's and women's players under a gender equity payment model

• The immediate contracting of men's and women's players to enable this month's scheduled men's Test team tour to Bangladesh to go ahead as planned

• Significant increases in payments to all players, male and female at international and domestic level

• Greater investment in grassroots programs and facilities, with the players to provide up to $25 million which CA will match through savings to their administrative costs over the next five years

In addition, the parties agreed that the 230 or so players who became uncontracted and therefore unemployed when the previous MOU lapsed on July 1 will receive back pay once the full MOU is agreed to in coming weeks.

It is also understood that the manner in which the ACA will be funded will change under the new MOU, with that money to come exclusively from the pool set aside for player payments rather than CA contributing half the union's ongoing administrative costs.

That total player pool is guaranteed to be $459 million over the next five years, which means the players receive a 27.5 per cent share based on CA's estimates of total cricket-related revenue over that time of $1.67 billion.

Payments to women's players will rise from the previous total of $7.5 million to $55.2 million, an increase that was welcomed by both parties.

And should total agreed cricket revenue exceed the $1.67 billion forecast by CA, players will share in 19 per cent of that surplus up to a capped level of $1.96 billion.

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Nicholson paid tribute to the resolve shown by senior players throughout the ongoing dispute that saw last month's scheduled Australia A tour to South Africa boycotted by players who voted not to participate in any matches organised by CA until a new MOU was agreed upon.

"Enduring uncertainty and unemployment has been very difficult," Nicholson said.

"They (the players) are terrific young men and women who have been rewarded for their determination. 

"I applaud all 300 players for showing such resolve and unity. They have achieved an historic outcome for each other and for the game of cricket."

Sutherland, who claimed today that the breakthrough came in the past week due to the "dawning reality" that the planned Test tour of Bangladesh was at genuine risk if a resolution was not reached, said the final outcome represented "a sensible compromise from both parties".

"This process hasn't been easy and history will judge whether it's been all worth it in the end," he said.

"Neither side has got everything that we wanted out of these negotiations but they shouldn't be approached with a winner-takes-all mindset.

"I think we've reached a good compromise, one that we can both live with and one that will be good for the game and good for Australia's cricketers.

"We needed to modernise the pay model to provide us with more flexibility to deal with issues facing the game as they come up from time to time.

"The underfunding of grassroots and junior cricket is our highest strategic priority.

"It's a very different revenue share to what was previously the case, it's been modernised to allow the game more flexibility."

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