ACA confirms Australia A tour cancellation

The absence of a new Memorandum of Understanding has led to the development tour to cease

The proposed Australia A tour to South Africa, due to start next week, will not go ahead, with the Australian Cricketers' Association announcing today that the players have chosen not take part as a result of the ongoing stalemate over a new Memorandum of Understanding.

The ACA released a statement confirming an earlier resolution passed at a meeting of the ACA executive last weekend that players would not agree to tour unless an MOU "on fair terms" was in place, and while any out-of-contract players thus remained unemployed.

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The Australia A tour was to feature four-day and limited-overs fixture and provide players on the cusp of national selection a chance to further their international claims as well as gain experience in South African conditions ahead of a proposed Test tour there next year.

"It is with great frustration that with no progress towards resolving the current dispute, Australia A players confirm they will not tour South Africa," the ACA statement says

"This decision is made in support of more than 200 male and female players who are now unemployed, and is consistent with Sunday’s ACA Executive meeting resolutions.

"By making this call, the Australia A players have sacrificed their own ambitions for the collective; an incredibly selfless act that shows their strength and overall commitment to the group.

"All players are deeply disappointed at the behaviour of CA which forces this course of action, given the players would rather be playing for their country.

"CA refuse to attend mediation or offer any genuine flexibility in the MOU negotiations.

"And without mediation it’s hard to see how there can be the progress necessary to reach agreement.

"The players want to make sure all men and women who play the game are treated fairly, and that grassroots funding is not drained by a top-heavy bureaucracy.

"The ACA again calls on common sense to prevail and for the CA CEO to attend mediation.

"The ACA sits at the table awaiting CA’s genuine participation."

It is believed that meetings between the two parties have been held in recent days, after direct negotiations had remained stalled for months leading up to last Friday's expiration of the previous MOU.

It is also understood Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland and his ACA counterpart Alistair Nicholson have had numerous communications during that time, while the respective negotiating teams from both sides continued to work through the issues relating to a new agreement.

The ACA announced last Sunday that the tour, which includes two four-day matches against the Proteas A team and then a limited-overs tri-series also featuring India A, would not go ahead in "the absence of an MOU".

The players have resolved that, unless contractually obliged, no male or female players intend to play for a Cricket Australia (CA) team whilst fellow players remain unemployed due to the absence of an MOU.

In announcing their position at a media conference following an emergency meeting of the ACA executive that was attended by a number of players – including captain of the Australia A four-day squad Usman Khawaja – Nicholson said the decision not to tour had been "endorsed by the Australia A squad in solidarity".

Image Id: 233948F793274A81B727487A234F57A5 Image Caption: Khawaja fronted the press on Sunday // Getty

A statement released by the ACA after that meeting confirmed that no professional cricketer intended to take part in a tour for a team chosen by CA while fellow players remained unemployed as a result of a new MOU not being agreed upon.

That included players who currently hold state-based multi-year contracts, as the terms of those deals state that a player can be invited but not compelled to accept an offer from CA to tour.

In the wake of the ACA's statement outlining the 14 resolutions adopted at the emergency meeting, CA issued a media release confirming it would not compel any player to represent Australia if they did not wish to do so.

"Australia A is a development tour which gives players an opportunity to perform at a high level," a CA spokesman said last Sunday.

"It is therefore surprising that players would elect not to tour, however CA has never, and would never attempt to force anyone to play for an Australian team who is unwilling to do so."

Khawaja, who along with allrounder Glenn Maxwell and fast bowlers Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers, Jason Behrendorff and Chris Tremain were expected to push their Test claims during the South Africa tour, claimed the decision not to tour in the absence of an MOU was vexed.

However, when the members of the 19-man touring party discussed the option of declining the invitation on a phone hook-up last Sunday, they all agreed to stand firm as the players push for retention of the revenue-share model of payment that remains at the centre of the stand-off.

"It’s not an easy thing to do, individually I really want to play cricket," Khawaja said last Sunday.

"I haven’t played cricket for a long time, and I still do (want to play) and so do all the other guys. 

"But we’re very united. 

"It was quite an easy phone call in the end because everyone was going in the same direction."

The stalemate over agreement on a new MOU, which was due to come into effect last Saturday, means more than 200 of Australia's professional men's and women's cricketers are out of contract and therefore unemployed.

Members of the Australia women's team which is currently undefeated in the ICC World Cup in the UK hold interim contracts that extend for the duration of their involvement in the tournament, while around 70 players hold multi-year deals with their state association or KFC Big Bash League franchises.

However, the ACA has indicated that because those multi-year contracts were signed under the terms of the previous MOU that included player payments based on a share of revenue, and if that was not recognised in their ongoing employment, "then the enforceability of these contracts will also become questionable".

CA proposed a change to the player payment model that has been included in previous iterations of the MOU since it was first struck in 1997 and claimed the contemporary challenges facing cricket required a more flexible approach.

The ACA has staunchly opposed any shift away from the current model whereby players receive a share (around 25 per cent) of gross cricket-related revenue, and last April proposed an alternative whereby players receive a reduced (22.5 per cent) share of a re-defined, broader revenue pie.

Since that was rejected by CA in May on the grounds that it retained the "inflexible" revenue share principle, meaningful negotiations over a new MOU stalled and the deadline for a new agreement to be reached lapsed at midnight on June 30.