Hockley steps up as CA chief executive after Roberts exit
Kevin Roberts replaced as Cricket Australia's CEO with World T20 chief Nick Hockley taking on the role as CA's Board seeks to break from months of disruption
16 June 2020, 12:29 PM AEST
Cricket Australia has parted ways with chief executive officer Kevin Roberts, the governing body confirmed today.
CA chairman Earl Eddings broke the news to staff via live stream this morning, saying the board needed fresh leadership to move on from the disruption that engulfed the organisation in the past few months.
Nick Hockley, the CEO of the T20 World Cup local organising committee, will take over the reins at Cricket Australia on an interim basis, effective immediately after Roberts tendered his resignation.
Hockley oversaw the successful women's T20 World Cup in February and March that culminated with Australia's win in front of 86,174 fans at the MCG on March 8, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic brought world cricket to a halt.
The men's T20 World Cup tournament – scheduled for October and November this year – remains in doubt given biosecurity and border issues caused by the pandemic. The tournament is expected to have its fate determined at the International Cricket Council's July board meeting, with one option to postpone the tournament for 12 months.
That outcome would allow Hockley to focus his attention on CA in the short term while a search for a permanent replacement for Roberts was conducted.
The English-born Hockley was previously CA's head of commercial projects between 2015 and 2017 before taking on the T20 World Cup role. He previously worked on the 2015 men's ODI World Cup in Australia and spent six years with the London Olympics organising committee before that.
Eddings said an "operational reset" for the governing body would still take place this week, as planned. Staff are expected to learn of budget cuts and redundancies on Wednesday.
"Cricket, like all national sports, has been going through a period of significant change and – in recent months we have had the added uncertainty delivered by COVID-19," Eddings said in a statement.
"The entire cricket community has been affected and difficult decisions have been – and will continue to be necessary – to ensure that cricket at every level is in the best shape it can be now and in the future.
"It is essential that Cricket Australia continues to provide strong leadership and works constructively with everyone who has an interest in the future of the game – the players, all employees, the state associations, commercial partners and supporters."
Cricket in Australia had been riding high after the successful women's T20 World Cup final but found itself swiftly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic soon after when the first of three ODIs against New Zealand was played without crowds at the SCG.
Two further games were cancelled, as was a T20 tour of New Zealand and a women's tour of South Africa, while CA moved to cancel the remainder of the Sheffield Shield season, installing the outright ladder leaders NSW as champions.
But off the field, the complicated financial situation caused by the virus proved difficult to navigate.
After early indications that CA was well-placed to weather the COVID-19 storm due to the timing of the pandemic's arrival at the backend of the cricket season, financial modelling provided a grim outlook as it also coincided with an imminent low point in the game's four-year revenue cycle.
CA's reserves dwindled by some $20 million in a matter of weeks due to fluctuations in the global financial market – although conditions have since improved and no losses were incurred as the assets were not realised – as well as contributions to the costs associated with supporting the men's T20 World Cup.
The vast majority of CA staff were stood down in late April until June 30 – saving the organisation some $3 million – while executives took a 20 per cent pay cut.
Roberts told staff CA had three goals in that timeframe: to secure a line of credit with a bank, a reduction of funding to the states and territories, and to finalise negotiations with the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) over changes to player payments. All three areas remain a work in progress.
At the same time, CA would look to reduce 25 per cent from its cost base for the 2020-21 financial year, Roberts publicly declaring that "no area of the organisation will be untouched” as the administration braced itself for a season of limited crowds, expensive biosecurity measures and the possibility of a reduction in broadcast revenue.
Eddings confirmed that "operational reset" would continue as planned to "reinvigorate cricket in a changed operating environment". The implications of that cost-cutting will be delivered to staff on Wednesday.
The state and territory associations have already shed some 150 jobs from various areas, with community cricket heavily affected, but no agreement has been reached with NSW and Queensland who refused to agree to the reduction. Western Australia had agreed to accept the cuts on the condition that every other state and territory did likewise.
The ACA last week lodged a formal dispute with Cricket Australia over the financial forecasting head office had provided to the players' union, citing the financial details provided "do not appear to be reasonable or consistent with an obligation of good faith".
Under that modelling, CA predicted that revenue would fall by 48 per cent for 2020-21. The parties now have 28 days to resolve the dispute before it heads to an independent arbitrator.
Amid this financial uncertainty, CA pushed ahead with an announcement of a full men's and women's international summer schedule including a Top End ODI series against Zimbabwe in August, an inaugural Test against Afghanistan at Perth Stadium and a marquee four-match Border-Gavaskar Test series against India.
That schedule announcement was not without controversy with the Western Australia Cricket Association labelling being overlooked for an India Test as "a kick in the guts".
Roberts rose to the role of CEO in October 2018 when he succeeded James Sutherland after nearly 18 years in the role.
Roberts played 23 first-class games and 18 domestic one-day matches for NSW as a batter between 1994 and 1998, then held senior management roles within global sportswear brands including adidas and 2XU, and served on the CA board between 2012 and 2015 before taking a staff role as CA's executive general manager of strategy and people.
He played a key role in leading CA's negotiations in the fractious 2017 dispute with the ACA over player payments, and in 2018 was installed as CA's inaugural Chief Operating Officer.
Roberts was appointed as Sutherland's successor by then CA chairman David Peever, who resigned weeks later after losing the support of the state associations following the release of a report by Simon Longstaff's The Ethics Centre into the culture of CA.
Roberts had overseen a revival of the Australian men's team's reputation under head coach Justin Langer and captain Tim Paine in the wake of the Longstaff review and fall-out from the ball tampering scandal in March 2018.
On-field success came, too, notably with a successful defence of the Ashes in England last winter and an unbeaten home summer that saw the team rise to the No.1 spot in the ICC's rankings for Test and T20 cricket. They are currently fifth in ODI cricket three years out from the next World Cup.
Under Roberts' tenure, CA had also made strides in gender equality with the move of the Rebel WBBL to a stand-alone competition, as well as committing to pay parity for the T20 World Cup, with CA topping up the ICC's US$1m prize for the victorious Australian women's team to the tune of US$600,000.
Roberts said: "It's been a privilege to lead and serve the sport I love as CEO of Cricket Australia. Our team of staff and players are outstanding people who contribute so much to the game and I'm proud of what we've achieved together.
"I'd like to thank the army of volunteers in communities across the country who are the lifeblood of our sport, enabling kids to experience the game and to dream about emulating their heroes in our national teams. As a lifelong and passionate member of the cricket community, I look forward to seeing the game thrive into the future."