Players to skip 'A' tour if MOU isn't signed

Australia A players won't tour South Africa if pay deal isn't resolved this week, says the ACA

A telephone hook-up of all members of the Australia A squad scheduled to tour South Africa this month, as well as Test captain Steve Smith, has resolved that series won't go ahead unless a new Memorandum of Understanding is in place by the end of this week.

Following an emergency meeting of the Australian Cricketers' Association in Sydney today, which was attended by a number of national and state players, it was also announced the players maintain a "strong desire" to take part in upcoming tours to Bangladesh and India, as well as the coming Australian summer that features a five-Test Ashes series.

In the short term, if a deal to replace the previous MOU that expired last Friday (and which left around 200 of Australia's professional cricketers out of contract and unemployed) is not negotiated in coming days then the planned month-long Australia A tour will not go ahead.

ACA Chief Executive Alistair Nicholson said today that players named in the four-day and limited overs squads for that tour will convene at Cricket Australia's National Cricket Centre in Brisbane tomorrow to begin preparations for the tour.

ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson and former Australia allrounder Shane Watson at today's announcement // Ryan Pierse
ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson and former Australia allrounder Shane Watson at today's announcement // Ryan Pierse

However, should negotiations that have stood at a stalemate for months fail to deliver a breakthrough then all players – including the majority of the squads who hold multi-year state contracts – will decline the offer to take part ahead of the group's planned departure on Saturday.

"The decision not to tour in the absence of a renewed MOU has been discussed and endorsed by the Australia A squad in solidarity," Nicholson said in the wake of today's meeting.

"We had a call a few hours ago with that squad to discuss and agree, and it was also joined by the Australian captain Steve Smith.

"The Australia A squad wishes to represent Australia and is prepared to give CA another opportunity.

"They will gather in Brisbane tomorrow to prepare for the tour in a gesture of the players' continued good faith and in hope that CA will reciprocate by agreeing an MOU on fair terms as soon as possible.

"The players have resolved that unless contractually obliged, no male or female players intend to play cricket for Cricket Australia and Cricket Australia teams whilst fellow players remain unemployed due to the absence of an MOU."

Quick Single: Australia name strong squad for Bangladesh tour

CA released a statement this evening expressing surprise that players had foregone the chance to take part in the tour that provided a vehicle for fast bowlers to push their claims for the existing vacancy in the Test team to play Bangladesh next month, and for other series to follow.

The scheduled Australia A tour includes a pair of four-day matches with South Africa A as well as a limited-overs tri-series against the Proteas' and India's A-teams.

With strike bowler Mitchell Starc sidelined from the two-Test series in Bangladesh starting in August while he fully recovers from a fractured foot, his place in the touring party was likely to be filled by the one of his fellow quicks - Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers, Jason Behrendorff and Chris Tremain – who most impressed in South Africa.

The Australia A four-day squad is captained by Usman Khawaja and contains other Test aspirants Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Agar and Hilton Cartwright, while the limited-overs outfit is to be led by South Australia skipper Travis Head.

Quick Single: Big names in Australia A squads

"Cricket Australia notes the Australian Cricketers' Association advice that players are unavailable to tour South Africa in the absence of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)," the CA statement said.

"Australia A is a development tour which gives players an opportunity to perform at a high level. 

"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.

"CA remains ready to negotiate a new MOU and has again called on the ACA to show genuine flexibility and commence negotiations in the best interests of the players and the game."

Khawaja, who was at today's meeting, said he and the other members of the Australia A squad were keen to play cricket but the player group remained united after legal advice to the ACA indicated those on multi-year state-based contracts could not be compelled to take part in the South Africa tour.

Khawaja speaks at the ACA announcement // Ryan Pierse
Khawaja speaks after the ACA phone hook-up // Ryan Pierse

"It was quite an easy phone call in the end because everyone was going in the same direction," Khawaja said of the phone hook-up that yielded the decision not to go ahead with the tour in the absence of an MOU.

"We're still going to be training this week; going up there (to Brisbane), doing our thing, getting ready and, hopefully, something can be resolved. 

"But if it's not, it's a tough decision that has to be made at this time.

"You get invited to play on any tour for Australia and you either accept the invitation or you don't.

"As a team, at the moment, we have not accepted that invitation. 

"We'll see what happens at the end of the week.

"Not to go is a sacrifice in some respects but we see the broader picture and the whole of Australian cricket, male and female, are in together on this."

Read more: Players 'frustrated' with MOU stalemate

The players' decision not to take part in the Australia A tour in the absence of a new MOU was one of a raft of resolutions reached at yesterday's meeting, at which they also reaffirmed their commitment to retaining the revenue share model of player payments that remains at the heart of the impasse.

Among them was a claim that, should a new MOU not be in place by the time the tours to Bangladesh and India (for ODIs) as well as the Ashes summer, the ACA is considering acting as a broker for out-of-contract players' services.

As such, they would look to negotiate deals on behalf of players to enable those scheduled matches to go ahead.

"There is still the ability for the uncontracted players to assign their cricket-playing rights, say to the ACA, and then that can be used because obviously the venues (for the coming summer) are all booked and the schedule is there," Nicholson said.

"So it's just a different way to get the players playing cricket contractually.

"That's something that further work would need to be done on if we don't get to a resolution soon, but that's something we need to start about now that the 30th of June has come along.

"The reality is our preference is to agree to an MOU with CA."

Nicholson also said that, in the absence of contracts for around 200 professional cricketers, the ACA was now looking to secure endorsements and appearance opportunities for those players, as well as "working with agents to commence the process of signing sponsors and to deal with broadcasters".

He added that the major impediment to agreement on a new MOU, to cover the next five years, being reached remained CA's proposal to modify the existing payment model whereby players receive around 25 per cent of gross cricket-related revenue.

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.

Nicholson reiterated that the ACA was prepared to show flexibility on the details "underneath the revenue share model" but reaffirmed that the key issue in negotiations remained the retention of revenue sharing and that "the more we've tried to focus on that, the less we've been able to get to a resolution".

"It's a key principle and we said that from day one nine months ago, but there's absolutely flexibility to modernise that or make it fit so both parties are comfortable, just like any negotiation," he said.

"We're very keen to have a model that's connected to the revenues of the game.

"What revenues they are what percentage that is, who's eligible for it that's something that I've always been open to discussing and we just haven't been able to get to a detailed conversation around that."

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