Pay dispute: Tour Cancelled

Former Australian Test cricketer, Ed Cowan, talks about the escalation in the cricket pay dispute that’s seen players boycott the Australia A tour to South Africa

Introduction: Pay dispute – Cricket Tour Cancelled.

Ross Greenwood: Let’s start with the big story of the day, and this is for the very first time a player led boycott of an Australian series. Now this is not the Australian team, the Australia A team, it is in fact which is obviously integral to cricket Australia, this is a South Africa tour that’s been cancelled.

Now it makes some sense, because if there’s no certainty for those players in regards to the current dispute over contracts then quite clearly there is a situation where the team could not tour without that certainty, but then it comes down to where Cricket Australia is with its negotiations over its next television deals, with the Ten Network right now in receivership, but with Lachlan Murdoch through News Corporation plus Bruce Gordon through Win TV, indicating that they are keen to mount some form of a takeover or rescue plan for the Ten Network.

Quite clearly you bring Fox Sports and Ten together you got a pretty powerful force, anyway let’s go and find out how these works from the players point of view, Ed Cowan, the former Australian opening batsman has certainly been highly vocal in regards to this he’s on the line right now many thanks for your time Ed.

Interview: Ed Cowan, Former Australian Opening Batmans.

Ed Cowan: Good day Ross, how you doing?

Ross Greenwood: Good thank you, I will actually put it out there to you that I’m sympathetic to the players in this regard, the reason I’m sympathetic to the players is because they are the people who bring the people through the turnstiles, they are the people who ultimately bring the television ratings on which the sport lives or dies by. Ultimately I feel as though the deal that they had where they shared in the proceeds of the sport be it good bad or indifferent ultimately by changing that deal, Cricket Australia has basically gone back on something where it was something shared with the people who bring the money through the door.

Ed Cowan: Well, Ross as a experienced businessman it makes perfect sense, you’re right and that is what the players they’re arguing and they don’t actually feel like they need to argue because it is the status quo, we feel as though a change needs to be sold and it needs to be sold well and at the moment we’re very happy with the arrangement because it does make good sense, it makes very simple sense that as the game grows the players benefit. If the game as you’ve just alluded to if Channel Ten was to roll over, the big bash rights decrease then we’ll take a hit. We want to be hand in hand in Cricket Australia as a relationship growing the game.

Ross Greenwood: Okay, then there’s the other aspect, there are some older players that I’ve heard from who basically say no the players get paid an awful lot of money and they should be happy because they’re going to represent Australia. The truth is in the past that may have been true but today the players as business people themselves with a relatively short life span in this career, they do have options they can go to the UK and play in their 20-20 league there.

They can play in the IPL, South Africa even the West Indies if they choose to and you’ve only got a look at say for example the West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle who gave up playing for his country to effectively go and play as a professional cricketer in many of the 20-20 leagues around the world to understand that players do have options these days apart from Cricket Australia, that maybe something that has not dawn necessarily as well as it should have on some of the administrators of the game.

Ed Cowan: That’s fact, you’re well aware of the power of the free market, what price that can create for someone like David Warner, so at the moment he as a sign of goodwill and he wants to play cricket for Australia there’s no doubt about that, but it needs to be in an arrangement that he feels as though he’s contributing to the game in Australia it’s not just about money. As you say we’re living in a very different world to the 70s when this reared its head again with the prior with the rebel tour, it is a very different world we live in and there are pressures from external shareholders in the game of world cricket.

Ross Greenwood: Okay, then take me to another aspect of this because quite clearly as you say cricketers want to play for Australia, they came to play for Australia, but the fact of the matter is it is certainly a shared arrangement, and the lifespan of a cricketer is relatively short and the mantle is passed on to the generation and the generation of the next generation and the generation after that.

It’s one of these points where the administrators are arguing, “Well you should be prepared to negotiate with us because we’re going put the money back into the grassroots of cricket,” but that to me seems almost like a hearts and minds campaign that they’re trying to push out there because ultimately the administrators themselves and the way in which they could run the game if they did it better they could put more money into the grassroots of cricket as distinct from claiming that the cricketers the current playing group should be doing exactly that.

Ed Cowan: Ross I couldn’t agree with you more all right, there are a couple of points to make here and one is that the players view themselves as custodians of the game, that is how we view our role in the game and trying to leave the game better for the next generation, that does involve grassroots cricketing, but grassroots cricket isn’t something that’s just popped up. It’s all of a sudden just been trying around that it’s been under invested in that it’s the players fault, grassroots cricket has been there forever in a day. It is not the players fault that it’s been severely lacking funds, someone has to be accountable to that and we’re trying to hold them to account.

Ross Greenwood: This is the whole point about it, because you cannot say that it’s Steve Smith Dave Warner’s Mitchell Stark’s fault that cricket at the grassroots has not got enough money, the argument is that those players should forego some of their own remuneration not withstanding the fact that they actually bring the money through the door and the crowds through the door in the first place. The administrators are trying to claim, “Well you’re getting paid lots of money, as a result we want to snip you and actually put the money back in the grass,” it doesn’t wash it looks to me like a complete red herring.

 Ed Cowan: It is, it’s a used salesman tactic that thankfully where we’re smart enough to avoid buying the bottom of the car. The players are a little offended, we are actually heavily in touch with grassroots cricket, we play a lot of club cricket we go down and support local clubs that we’ve played for in the past, we do a lot of clinics, all of a sudden board of directors many of whom wouldn’t know where their local cricket club is is telling us that we are the main reason that these clubs are struggling, we find it very hard to swallow.

Ross Greenwood: Ed, you just picked up a little layer of the mood of the players just describe it for me.

Ed Cowan: I think the overarching mood is sadness, because this is a game we love but we find ourselves at loggerheads with employees that we’ve enjoyed a great relationship with, it is sad we’re very sad that the Australia A team — the team isn’t going to South Africa and that decision wasn’t made lightly, the playing group — because that is a huge opportunity let’s say it loud and clear that those guys to forego that, potentially take runs and wickets and put their name up in lights but for future honours that is a huge decision.

The players are sad for those players, but generally they’re just a little dismayed that this couldn’t have — this deal couldn’t have been done in the preceding 6 months, 12 months. We just shake our heads as to why it’s got to this point.

Ross Greenwood: I’ll tell you what Ed Cowan not only the former Australian opening batsman still playing, but also with a very good head in his shoulders when it comes to business, you could hear it there, this is really understand this about business and about negotiation. It would be fair to say that Cricket Australia is really trying to have its cake and eat it too, it’s trying to get the money through the television rights, lots of money through the door, it’s also trying to therefore curb the amount that the players the people who bring the dollars through the door in the first place, the amount that they might be able to receive. Ed Cowan we appreciate your time here on the program this evening.

Ed Cowan: Any time Ross thanks for having me.

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