CA, ACA unite to hail new AFL pay deal
A look at the differences and commonalities between the new AFL pay model and the proposals from both sides of the ongoing cricket dispute
21 June 2017, 09:29 PM AEST
Both parties in cricket's still unresolved pay dispute have hailed the collective bargaining agreement reached between the Australian Football League and their players, but for markedly different reasons.
Cricket Australia claims the six-year deal signed yesterday, under which the AFL's 700 contracted male players win a share of agreed football revenue plus an opportunity to share income that exceeds the governing body's forecast, is a repudiation of the flat revenue sharing model that cricket has employed for the past two decades.
By contrast, the Australian Cricketers Association also welcomed the AFL news but claimed it underscored the need for a strong partnership between administrators and players which is a central tenet of the revenue sharing model they are fighting to retain.
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While the AFL Players Association, led by former ACA Chief Executive Paul Marsh, has for the first time secured a pay deal that includes a set portion of the game's income it falls short of the share of overall revenue that they had initially sought.
Instead, players from the 18 AFL clubs will receive a 28 per cent portion of as-yet-undefined 'agreed football revenue' and the opportunity for a share in a further 28 per cent of unbudgeted income should the game's earnings outstrip a forecast threshold nominated by the AFL.
The outcome was hailed yesterday as a 'win-win' by both the AFL and the union representing their players.
In a statement released today, CA claimed the deal reached between the AFL and its players more closely mirrored the modified income share model that they have proposed for cricket's new Memorandum of Understanding that is due to take effect from July 1.
That proposal – under which international men's and women's cricketers will share in the game's surpluses (up to $20 million over the five-year deal) while payments to domestic players are capped at an increase over five years of 18 per cent (men) and 150 per cent (women) - has been rejected by the ACA.
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“The AFL players, led by former Australian Cricketers' Association head Paul Marsh, have embraced a pay deal which is more closely aligned with the proposal that Cricket Australia has offered our elite players,” a CA spokesperson said today.
"Both the AFL deal and the proposal that CA has put to the nation’s cricketers feature guaranteed payments.
"Above the guaranteed payments, players share in additional revenue after expenses are taken into account.
"This is more akin to a profit share.
"By contrast, the existing cricket model is based on a fixed share of revenue that ignores the cost of generating that revenue.
“The AFL deal demonstrates clearly that you do not need a player payments model based on a fixed percentage of revenue to be a successful sport that looks after all levels of the game, including grassroots, or to have an effective partnership with the players.
“The modified model that we have proposed will provide the flexibility to invest significantly more in grassroots, particularly junior cricket, while significantly increasing remuneration for our male players, and achieving a ground-breaking pay model for our women."
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ACA Chief Executive Alistair Nicholson also released a statement earlier in the day that acknowledged the AFL and the AFLPA had not agreed upon a full revenue sharing arrangement but congratulated them for the manner in which they were able to reach a deal.
Eight months after the previous collective bargaining agreement had expired, and against the backdrop of an at-times testy relationship during which the AFL players threatened to strike (but ultimately did not) if their claims for a share of revenue were not met.
"Partnership works - that's the message," Nicholson said, as talks between CA and the players union continue ahead of the June 30 deadline.
"And it's what the AFL and the AFLPA are starting to embrace.
"Players and administrators growing the game for everyone as partners is how to make a sport successful.
"What these two parties are trying to achieve is what cricket has enjoyed for 20 years.
"The AFL is at a different stage of evolving the partnership than cricket.
"But what's clear is that this sense of co-operation is the way to go.
"And that this deal was also based on the AFLPA having access to the necessary financial information provides a telling message in their partnership approach."
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The ACA has previously called for CA to disclose the financial details that underpin its claim that the revenue sharing model is outdated and inflexible, but have been told that information will be made available once the union agrees to enter into formal negotiations over details contained in the new MOU proposal.
The ACA indicated it would not enter into those negotiations until CA showed its preparedness to retain the existing pay structure whereby players receive a flat (currently around 25 per cent) portion of total revenue.
The union has also proposed an amended model under which the scope of what is agreed as revenue is broadened further, but the percentage share to players drops to 22.5 per cent.
With a further 22.5 per cent directed to grassroots cricket and the remaining 55 per cent for CA to administer, promote, develop and stage the game.
To achieve that outcome, the ACA want to expand the current definition and scope of what is understood to be revenue to remove "loopholes and exclusions of revenue streams in the current definition".
According to the ACA's proposal, that broadened definition includes all revenue from CA, the state associations, the KFC Big Bash League (men's and women's) and income from the scheduled ICC World T20 tournament in 2020 (but does not extend to government grants and sales of CA-owned real estate).
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CA has rejected that proposal, claiming that regardless of the definitions or the percentage share being sought, adherence to a model that – unlike the AFL agreement – cites a share of revenue before costs imposes unworkable restrictions on a business that administers cricket at international, domestic, club and development levels.
As a result, the two parties remain at a stand-off with less than two weeks before the current MOU expires.
One of the driving forces behind the original cricket MOU signed in 1997 was the exodus of young talent to the AFL, where teenage rookies could sign on for annual football contracts worth almost as much as established stars (such as current Australia coach Darren Lehmann) were earning in domestic cricket.
Simon Goodwin, the former Adelaide player now coaching Melbourne who was last night elevated to the AFL's Hall of Fame, co-captained South Australia's under-19 cricket team with ex-Sheffield Shield player Chris Davies before he was drafted by the Adelaide Crows and turned his back on the summer game.
That disparity has now been effectively bridged.
In 2016, the average annual salary for a contracted AFL footballer was $309,000 and over the past five years AFL players have earned pay increases of 22 per cent.
Under the new agreement, players can receive an immediate 20 per cent pay rise but further incremental increases drop sharply to between one and two per cent in each of the remaining five years of the agreement.
According to the AFL's 2016 annual report, six players (less than one per cent of the total contracted) earned more than $1 million a year while the most common salary range was between $100-$200,000 (26 per cent of the total player group).
For the 2016-17 year, CA reports that the average payment to an international men's player was $1.16 million and for a domestic men's player $199,000, which does not include payments earned through CA-approved involvement in offshore competitions such as the Indian Premier League and UK county cricket.
The rate of pay increase for Australia's contracted cricketers over the past five years has been 63 per cent (international players) and 53 per cent (domestic), and under CA's proposal for the next five years the increase will be 25 per cent (international) and 18 per cent (domestic).
Among CA's claims underpinning the push to modify the current revenue sharing model is the need to invest more heavily in grassroots cricket, citing the fact that the AFL currently employs more than 450 game development staff throughout Australia compared to cricket's 170.
The new AFL deal also does not include payments for their newly introduced women's league, while both CA and the ACA have agreed that women's international and domestic players will be covered by the next cricket MOU after the players' union opposed their inclusion in the 2012 deal.