12 Jun

The head of Australian cricket’s most powerful state association has called for a rare meeting of the sport’s national cabinet as division between Cricket Australia (CA) and stakeholders increases over the governing body’s reaction to the coronavirus crisis.

Sources have told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that John Knox, the Cricket NSW chairman, has written to CA chairman Earl Eddings this week requesting that the Australian Cricket Council (ACC) be convened by video link amid mounting disharmony between head office, the players and states over CA’s savage cost cutting.

Relations between CA and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) are as poor as they’ve been since the end of a pay war three years ago, with the union’s lawyers this week finalising a formal notice of dispute about the governing body’s dramatic downward forecasting of revenue projections last week. Cricket NSW and Queensland Cricket have staunchly opposed CA’s push to have states accept a 25 per cent reduction in distributions. Western Australia has signed up to the grants being slashed, but on the proviso that the other states agree.

The running of the game is in such turmoil that Knox wants the ACC to assemble for the first time since last October.

The national council is a consultative body set up in the aftermath of the game’s cultural review two years ago and includes Eddings as CA chairman, the chairs of individual state and territory associations as well as ACA chairman Greg Dyer. It has no real power in itself, but can make recommendations to the governing body and exists in theory to provide a vehicle for a cohesion that the Longstaff report found was sorely lacking.

Knox declined to comment when contacted on Wednesday night, but other states had been made aware of his approach to Eddings to bring the council together. A CA spokeswoman said Eddings would canvass the opinions of other state associations before determining whether a meeting was necessary.

The ill feeling between CA and the players grew last week over the governing body's forecast of a massive 48 per cent drop in cricket revenue for the upcoming season. Such is the discord between the two organisations, they cannot even find common ground on how their dispute will be resolved.

There is scepticism among states and players over CA's numbers with many doubting how their financial situation can be so grim when the chief executive Kevin Roberts is so confident that the lucrative series against India will go ahead.

While the Tests and one-day internationals are worth about A$300 million to the game, CA has projected its cricket revenue to fall from a pre-pandemic figure of A$461 million to A$239.7 million.

CA believe they are being "prudent" and have warned that India should not be viewed as the panacea to their financial woes, as even with "minimal on-field interruptions and economic impact" match revenue would be down by 80 per cent. They also fear that the game's broadcast partners would ask for a reduction in broadcast fees due to the hit the pandemic has had on the advertising market.

CA is expected to announce an extensive round of redundancies next week, having already furloughed 200 staff on 20 per cent pay in April.

John Stephenson


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