'Judge me on actions, not words': New CEO
Australian cricket's new most powerful figure says his tenure will be founded upon efforts to rebuild trust and respect between CA’s administration and players, and the global cricket community
Andrew Ramsey Senior writer
4 October 2018, 06:00 AM AEST
Cricket Australia's next Chief Executive Officer has asked that he be judged on future actions, not past events, after the serving member of CA's executive management team was unanimously chosen to lead the organisation into a challenging future.
Kevin Roberts, who will succeed incumbent CEO James Sutherland following CA's annual general meeting in three weeks, was employed in 2015 to oversee the governing body's strategy implementation as well as its people and culture before being elevated to Chief Operating Officer earlier this year.
However, the 46-year-old former Sheffield Shield batter and sportswear business executive also became CA's front man in the protracted and, at times, pointed negotiations with players over a new Memorandum of Understanding that was concluded in August last year.
As a result of the fissures that opened between Australia's leading players and their employer, and the subsequent (though unrelated) ball tampering scandal that raised concerns about Australian cricket's on-field and corporate ethos, Roberts was quizzed as to his suitability to lead CA into a fresh era.
But the father of five daughters, all of whom are keen cricketers in their own right, told his maiden media conference as Australian cricket's most powerful figure that lessons were learned from the MOU process, and much has been accomplished during the past 14 months to heal residual wounds.
Roberts pointed to the doubling of CA's financial commitment to the ACA's professional development program that helps players build skills to boost their employment viability beyond cricket as one such example.
And he noted that in the aftermath of this year's sandpaper controversy that brought into question the character and culture of Australia's men's team, a number of them including current coach Justin Langer and skipper Tim Paine have paid visits to CA headquarters in Melbourne to meet and engage with staff.
Roberts also suggested it will be actions such as those, often unaccompanied by public comment and wider attention, that will be hallmarks of his tenure founded upon efforts to rebuild trust and respect between CA's administration and players, and the global cricket community.
"The players are actually in a pretty good place," Roberts said today when asked how his appointment had been greeted by the nation's leading players and their union.
"What you don't see reported on a daily basis is all of the good work going on, and the stream of players that we've had going through this office (in Melbourne) recently engaging with all of the other employees in Cricket Australia to ensure that we can unite together as one organisation.
"So that we can then, in turn, inspire the Australian community through the deeds of our players, both on the field and off the field.
"I'm not going to spin anything to people right now, but what I will say is we are committed to evolving, to learning, and to changing for our changing times, just as the organisation has done over its long and proud history.
"There's no words to describe that today, but I'm happy to be judged by my actions and our actions as an organisation."
Among the myriad housekeeping matters attended to ahead of today's public announcement were courtesy calls to the coaching staff, selection panels and leadership personnel within Australia's men's and women's teams, both currently engaged in international playing commitments.
In addition, ACA president Greg Dyer was advised of the impending appointment early in the day and Roberts indicated he planned to speak with the union's chief executive Alistair Nicholson during the course of the afternoon.
He will also travel to Dubai next week where Australia's men's touring party have a short break during their Qantas Tour of the UAE, and will likewise catch up with the national women's outfit following the completion of their current CommBank T20 series against New Zealand.
The ACA released a statement earlier today, congratulating Roberts on his appointment that came after a global search led by executive recruitment firm Egon Zehnder, and reiterating the value of the relationship between the two bodies.
"The partnership between the ACA and CA has been important to the game's success for over twenty years," Nicholson said.
"We look forward to continuing to build bridges between our organisations as we look to grow Australian cricket.
"CA have identified a need for significant change and the ACA will play its part assisting CA and Kevin throughout this ongoing process."
Roberts acknowledged that he "did absolutely play a key role" in leading the MOU negotiations on behalf of CA and its state and territory organisations but claimed, while there were elements from that sometimes bitter campaign that had warranted reflection, it was now time to look ahead.
He did, however, note that a fundamental lesson from last year's stoush in which the players came off contract (but ultimately received back pay) and withdrew from a scheduled 'A' tour to South Africa was that the negotiations must be better managed in the years leading up to any final MOU deadline.
"I think the key learning is the importance of the relationship being defined by how we work together over a sustained period, rather than having this pressure cooker-type build-up to a five-yearly negotiation," Roberts said.
"So we've got over three and a half years until the next MOU needs to be negotiated and our commitment is to build a stronger relationship in that period.
"There will be bumps in the road for cricket along the way, no question.
"We're all human, and we'll experience some challenges.
"But when we work on really sincerely and genuinely building that relationship with the ACA and continue to strengthen our relationship with players, cricket will be in a far better space when it comes time to contemplate the next MOU."
As Peever pointed out, the realisation of that agreement meant "we have professionalised the women, our men are the best-paid sportsmen in the country, and with the agreement of the ACA we have been able now to stream off some of the above-expected revenues into grassroots".
Roberts said the most immediate challenge he faces upon taking over from Sutherland, who has served as CEO since 2001, is to unite a cricket community whose faith and trust were shaken by events in South Africa last March.
He also raised one of his preferred sporting truisms – that things are rarely as good, or bad, as they outwardly seem – in characterising the current relationship between Australian cricket and its constituency.
Though he did concede that the shame of Cape Town this year was "a low point for our sport".
In looking to rebuild trust and reconnect with cricket's fan base - whether they be long-time followers of traditional formats, or recent converts to the fast-paced T20 version – Roberts had two pledges that he hoped would convey CA's approach under his upcoming leadership.
"The first message would be 'thank you' to the fans of Australian cricket who provide such passion in our game, and really inspire the players to perform in the way that they do, and to strive to be the best players in the world," he said.
"The second thing is to make a promise to the fans that we won't be perfect, but I absolutely promise that we'll be genuine in our intentions to build respect and to build trust, and we'll try and bring fans and players closer together.
"Our players in the national men's and women's teams are outstanding young Australians, and we want to help those young Australians understand more about those male and female players, just what great people they are.
"And at the same time help our players empathise with fans and what they're experiencing in the game.
"It's really all about bringing those two groups together, but fundamentally it's a big thank you to our fans and a commitment to continue inspiring them whether it's through the efforts of our players on the field, or the efforts of everything we do in the community to keep growing the game."