Small steps in marathon cricket pay talks

Rob Forsaith
Pay talks are progressing between Cricket Australia and the players' union

Australian cricket's warring parties edged closer on Friday to a new pay deal, attempting to chip away at the revenue-sharing deadlock.

Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) have been preaching for months about how desperate they are to thrash out an agreement.

Recently, there have been actions to back up the words, especially since CA chief executive James Sutherland's move to involve himself in talks.

Progress this week included a marathon session on Friday that dragged on beyond close of business. There is the prospect of further talks on the weekend.

An in-principle agreement could be reached soon. However, the complexities of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) can't be understated.

Revenue sharing, the salary model used for 20 years since the first MoU to deliver players a set percentage of the revenue they generate, is simple in theory.

In reality, it involves divvying up billions of dollars from varied sources to hundreds of players on different pay scales.

CA remains adamant the existing model is untenable but has shown a willingness to share surpluses. The ACA has indicated it is flexible over aspects of the model.

Slicing up the pie is tricky for any sport but cricket has unique challenges because annual revenue differs drastically, spiking for example when England or India tour.

"Revenue sharing gets very complicated," Dr Ross Booth, one of Australia's eminent sports economists, told AAP.

"There are different sorts of revenue-sharing arrangements. You've got a problem of which revenue streams are included and you've got to have a lot of rules for unexpected revenue.

"The basic argument for revenue sharing is the players have an incentive to grow the game and increase revenue."

Booth, a senior lecturer at Monash University, has no ties with CA or the ACA. He played cricket alongside Sutherland when they were students.

He disagreed with CA's assertion that revenue sharing must be scrapped to ensure more funds were directed to grassroots.

"It's a lame argument there isn't enough money," Booth said.

"It's a bit of a red herring.

"Cricket Australia rake in revenue and make decisions on what to spend it on. For example, whether or not to expand the Big Bash, which has been a great innovation and helped grow revenue."

ACA player liaison manager Simon Katich noted players understood the need to modernise the revenue-sharing model.

"To not only include the female players for the first time but also to ensure the growth of the game," former Test opener Katich told AAP.

"Cricket has not only survived by giving players a percentage of revenue but thrived in the process.

"The benefit of having a structure that rises and falls with the money available is it ensures the players never take more than the game can afford."