Former Premier Mike Baird to negotiate cricket pay deal

Former NSW premier Mike Baird has been nominated as part of Cricket Australia’s advisory group ahead of the forthcoming pay negotiations with players as the governing body is expected to jettison a bonus system that many believe contributed to the Cape Town sandpaper scandal.

Baird, who joined the board after stepping down as a director at Cricket NSW and was premier of the state for three years from 2014, has not met with other members of the subcommittee.

The 2017 Memo Of Understanding negotiation headed by former Rio Tinto chief David Peever was a toxic affair which resulted in all players off contract after head office attempted to undo the revenue share model.

The next round is expected to be less controversial with new Australian Cricketers Association chief executive Todd Greenberg and his recently appointed opposite number at Cricket Australia, Nick Hockley, signalling a more collaborative approach.

However, cash incentives for winning games and series are almost certain to be abandoned as Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association prepare the ground for a new MOU.

A win-at-all-cost mentality was identified by many as one of the reasons the Australian side lost its way and resorted to ball tampering in South Africa in 2018.

In the last MOU players stood to earn $42 million in performance bonuses which would be paid to sides across the five years of the contract period, although some of that money was earmarked for grassroots development.

The idea to link pay to performance emerged from the Argus review some seven years earlier which recommended “Aligning cricket‘s incentive systems, including the MOU, to give greater emphasis to linking reward with performance”.

Australian players stood to win $26,000 for a series win over a top-four side.

The players submitted to the post-sandpaper gate culture review that the bonus system be recalibrated, indicating that incentives for coaching staff and players based on team success could have put too much pressure on the team to win at all cost.

The ACA’s submission to the Longstaff Review carried the title Winning Right.

“There should be no monetary incentives for coaching and other support staff based on the on-field successes of the national teams, recognising that reappointments will inevitably reflect on-field success or failure,” it said.

“The Australian Team Performance Pool should be similarly recalibrated to have a less singular focus on team ‘winning’, regardless of how the game is played. Suitable recognition of the Australian Cricket Charter behaviours, perhaps determined by umpires or match referees, could form part of the Performance Pool determination.”

The Longstaff cultural review was also critical of the system arguing “the current performance bonus (linked to match wins, series wins and world rankings) be converted into a payment, without loss to players current remuneration, in recognition of: contributions to the maintenance and development of grassroots cricket, and positive relationships with fans, sponsors etc”.

The Longstaff report recommended that “CA‘s performance reviews and bonus schemes be harmonised so that all versions take into account ethical and behavioural considerations as the basis for potential reward”.

The Argus review had argued strongly for the performance bonuses and they formed a part Cricket Australia’s submission to the last MOU negotiations.

“Performance payments should be structured to align better with the priorities of Australian men‘s teams,” the CA submission says.

“For example, there should be increased rewards for overcoming the challenge of winning a Test series on the subcontinent and increased rewards for winning the 2020 WT20 Championship in Australia.”

Rewards for winning are not uncommon in world cricket with large prizes offered to sides who win ICC events.

Other international teams offer similar incentives but last year England wound back its scheme because of the financial impact of the pandemic.

A report by The Guardian in 2020 claimed the England Test team earned between $88,000 and $323,000 per Test win depending on the where the opposition sat in a five-tier system.

The article claimed that a 3-0 win over Australia, who are a tier-one side, would see the team split a total prize pot of $2.6m.

Those rewards were almost halved in response to the losses English cricket suffered in 2020 through the pandemic.

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