WNCL season expanded as short-term MOU agreed
The top-flight women's 50-over competition moves to a full home-and-away season for the first time after CA and players agree 12-month extension to Memorandum of Understanding
12 May 2022, 02:05 PM AEST
An expansion of Australia's women's national one-day competition is the major change in a one-year rollover of the agreement between Cricket Australia and the players' union that signals a new era of co-operation between the once-warring parties.
While the 12-month extension of the Memorandum of Understanding announced today largely maintains the status quo, the decision to increase the Women's National Cricket League to a 12-game full home-and-away schedule from next summer underscores bilateral commitment to growing the women's game.
The WNCL – previously an eight-match season for all teams – has been hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions and scheduling uncertainty in the past two years but the additional games ensure players will pocket an extra $7000 on average in match payments.
As a result, the average annual salary for a female domestic player involved in both the WNCL and Weber WBBL competitions will increase to around $86,000 per year.
"Our female players are superb role models and as we continue to focus on increasing the participation of women and girls in cricket, a full home and away WNCL season is a logical step," Cricket Australia Chief Executive Nick Hockley said in announcing the MOU extension today.
While previous MOUs between CA and the Australian Cricketers' Association have covered four or five-year periods, CA had sought a one-year extension to the current agreement to enable the administration to focus on delivering a full 2021-22 season amid the challenges of COVID-19.
In agreeing to the proposal, the ACA signalled much of the trust lost during the at-times heated negotiation of the previous deal in 2017 had healed as reflected by the minimal changes sought by both parties to the existing agreement for the coming year.
The revenue-sharing model that was at the heart of the previous stand-off has been retained with players continuing to receive 27.5 per cent of all revenue earned by Australia cricket which, in the previous MOU, CA forecast to be $1.67 billion over five years.
CA today confirmed projected revenues remained above forecast despite the challenges presented by the global pandemic, with a further 27.5 per cent of money generated beyond expectations to be included in an adjustment ledger distributed among players at the MOU's conclusion.
In addition, players are also rewarded for on-field efforts with a further 2.5 per cent of revenue added to a Performance Pool.
"What became clear as we worked through the negotiations was that the benefits to the game of this partnership model were clearly recognised," ACA chief executive Todd Greenberg said today.
"It has served Australian cricket well in responding to the impacts of COVID, where player payments and benefits self-adjusted as the games’ revenues fluctuated, avoiding the challenging re-negotiations faced by other sports.
"At a time when all sports continue to negotiate the challenges of the impacts of COVID, the partnership model has delivered a great result for Australian cricket and the players."
While contracted players receive a one per cent increase to their contracts and match payments across the coming year, they have also agreed to provide $4 million to CA to help offset the costs of biosecurity measures needed to deliver matches during the pandemic.
Those additional measures, which were unforeseen when the previous MOU was drafted five years ago, have so far cost CA around $40 million.
Australia's players have also maintained their support for the growth of grassroots cricket, with an unspent $10 million in their dedicated Grassroots Cricket Fund to be carried over into the next MOU period.
The extended agreement also includes a $3 million grant from that Grassroots Fund to the ACA to enable continued funding of the Association's Premier Cricket Program and its Masters Tours which feature past players.
"This is an excellent result for Australian cricket and I look forward to working with Todd and the Players’ Association for the next long-term MOU," Hockley said today.
"Despite the impacts of COVID, the MOU has delivered an outcome for players that is beyond expectations.
"We thank all the players for their enormous efforts in such a demanding time.
"To think that we managed to play every international game and the vast majority of domestic fixtures last season and enjoyed one of the most successful periods in our history is an extraordinary achievement from all involved."
The 12-month extension of the current five-year agreement – due to expire on June 30 – provides strong evidence the next iteration of the pact between players and CA will be reached without a repeat of the animosity and uncertainty unleashed by the 2017 dispute.
At its height, that feud saw players boycott a proposed men's A-team tour to South Africa and all players become uncontracted (and therefore unemployed) for more than a month before a belated agreement was struck.
The major parties involved in that acrimonious process have since moved on, with CA's David Peever (then chair) and James Sutherland (chief executive) leaving the organisation in 2018 while ACA boss Alistair Nicholson stood down from his role in 2020.
Greg Dyer, the ex-Test wicketkeeper who was an outspoken critic of CA during the dispute, remains chair of ACA but the role of president is now filled by former Australia men's allrounder Shane Watson.
And Kevin Roberts, who headed up CA's negotiations in 2017 and then replaced Sutherland as CEO a year later, resigned amid the early fall-out from COVID-19 two years ago.