Greg Dyer, a former Australian cricketer and President of the Australian Cricketers’ Association, talks about the pay dispute with Cricket Australia and whether Australia’s best players could miss The Ashes series because of it
Cricket Pay Dispute
Ross: Welcome back to Money News right around Australia. A lot of people making parallels with Clive Palmer at the moment. You might remember in regards to maybe memory loss, Alan Bond. There was the appearance with the oxygen mask with Christopher Skase. Of course, Clive Palmer has done nothing wrong. We’ve got to remember that. Now, just sitting there thinking about the pancreatic condition that he’s obviously taking heavy medication before, that he now claims it’s affecting his memory. I just thought about that.
Danny Hill. Danny Hill, who’s now back in Australia after many, many years, actually left after I think it might have been one of the big inquiries. Was it the cost of getting real commission? One of those left the country. Bottom of the harbour maybe. Something of that nature. I think he had a pancreatic condition that meant that he couldn’t come back to Australia for a long, long time. Just coming to all of those things, we’re just making the observation of former colourful Australian identity. I’ll tell you something else that’s going to affect a lot of Australians and potentially media as well. That is cricket.
The Ashes series this year is apart from the Indian series, the most lucrative that Australia plays, and probably the most competitive these days. Well, the fact of the matter is that you’ve got the employer, which is Cricket Australia. You’ve got the employees, which are the players, right now at loggerheads in regards to their remuneration. Now, I didn’t know today and I think this is really unfair, but some are saying all the cricketers get paid a lot of money and they drive flash cars and live in big houses. Well, yes, that’s exactly right.
Cricketers are Superstars
You know why? Because they’re superstars. Because they’re now not just Australian superstars, but global superstars. What they get paid or how they get paid, well, that is the subject of a negotiation. The fact is it if Cricket Australia, in my opinion, does not actually come up with a decent contract that the players are happy to sign by the time the Ashes series comes, why would you as an employee actually put out your labour, put out your services? I think that’s going to be an interesting one to watch. There is no doubt that the pay talks between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association that is doing these negotiations had stalled. Let’s now go to the president of the Australian Cricketers’ Association, Greg Dyer, who is on the line right now.
Interview with Greg Dyer
Many thanks for your time, Greg.
Greg: Hey, Ross. That was fun. How are you?
Ross: Very well, thank you. Just explain where exactly are you up to with these negotiations.
Grey: Well, I think the difference is one of principle rather than pay as you talked about really. It’s the principle of whether the players very much see themselves as partners in the game and I wanted to change that model and make them effectively paid employees.. It’s about the principle by which the players participate.
Ross: In other words, the scheduling and the amount of time they’re expected to be committed to Cricket Australia and its duties as compared with playing in the IPL or playing in some of the other Twenty20 competitions around the world, that’s all pretty much been locked down. It’s actually the status of that player. What would be different compared with how they are currently employed?
Greg: Well, the model has been there for 20 years. The players have been partners in the game that had a revenue share model, which has driven the way in which their remuneration is based in. They see themselves as co-contributors. Really, co-marketers, in every respect, they’re trying to drive the game forward as real partners. See, I have decided whatever reasons that they want to break that partnership model and create a different situation, where the players’ remuneration is fixed. That partnership model is broken. I think the state of cricket and where we are internationally, I think the retention of the partnership model is very important. There’s a real mood amongst all of the players. Men, women, international and domestic players, they’re galvanized around this particular issue.
Ross: Given the fact that there is a stalemate right now and, obviously, there has to be negotiation to try and work through that stalemate, is there any prospect whatsoever that Australia’s cricket team might not turn out against the England team when they arrive for the Ashes series this year?
Greg: Well, that should not be the case. Everyone wants to play the Ashes. The players don’t want to be in dispute. We would really prefer that this matter does not escalate to that level and what we call for is independent mediation. We called for that mediation for a reason. We don’t want to be in that situation. We want to try to avert that at all cost. We do see that there’s a need to break this impasse at the moment and that’s what we’ve put out there to Cricket Australia. We hope that they will accept that invitation.
Ross: You would also have been very cognizant of the fact that in the last little while, Nine, and I notice that UBS, the big investment company, has indicated that perhaps the rights that media is paying, television stations are paying, is right now too high. Given the fact that the players would be partners in the game, I know there is also the Big Bash League, which is quite clearly now going to be heavily sought and maybe the money’s going to be made up there. The actual international game, which will be Test cricket in particular, but also a one-day series. If the television rights are less, would it be technically the case that the players would take less money?
Greg: Well, the partnership model certainly implies that. If the revenue drops, then so too does the remuneration of the players. We don’t believe that that will be the case. We think that over a five-year MOU period that there’ll be strong growth in revenue in fact and that the opposite will be the case. The partnership model implies exactly that, Ross. If there are drops in the amount of revenue into the game, then the players will receive less than they currently do.
As a businessman and I have a commercial background as well, if I’ve got variable revenues in that way, then I’d very much like to have my costs vary along with that revenue. That seems to me to be a very sensible business model, so we’re a little bit perplexed as to why Cricket Australia at this moment in time wants to break that model.
Ross: Okay. Did the email that was sent out last Friday by the chief executive of Cricket Australia, James Sutherland, basically saying if players don’t sign by June 30, there’ll be no individual contracts or rollovers of old deals? He’s basically threatening an employment at that level. Does that actually help the negotiations?
Greg: I don’t think it’s particularly helpful obviously. I’ve never seen a more galvanized group of men and women around this particular issue. They’re very firmly of the view that the old model has worked really, really well over 20-year period for cricket. We’ve seemed to go advanced and the players have been participants in all sorts of marketing undertakings and changes to the game, including frankly the establishment of the Big Bash League and similar, which have really driven the game forward, advanced its audience, increased revenues and so forth.
It’s a model which has really worked for the game and we see at this particular time when arguably Test cricket is under pressure. People are going to go and watch Test cricket because David Peever and James Sutherland told them that they should or because Steve Smith and David Warner encouraged them to go and watch a game. I know who are going to be the more influential people in marketing in the game. Let’s keep them as partners in the game so that we can progress.
Ross: The president of the Australian Cricketers’ Association in those negotiations with Cricket Australia. Cricket Australia’s sending that email last Friday. Basically saying if you don’t sign by June 30, well, there are no contracts. In other words, there’s no play. Greg Dyer.
Greg, we appreciate your time here on the program this evening.