Cricket Australia (CA) has urged the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) to show genuine flexibility in their ongoing pay dispute with the board and act in the best interests of the players and the game.
National contracts expire on Friday and the two parties are no closer to reaching an agreement on new deals, which would make Australia's leading players, including Steve Smith and David Warner, free agents.
CA issued a statement on Friday which read: "CA acknowledged that a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will not be agreed before 1 July and repeated its call for the ACA to come to the negotiating table and show genuine flexibility in the best interests of the players and the game.
"CA has been disappointed by the ACA's unwillingness to consider the sensible and necessary change CA has proposed to the fixed share of revenue player payments model.
"The model was adopted 20 years ago to address the underpayment of players. The game has changed fundamentally since then: players are now justifiably well rewarded and the modern challenge is the chronic under-funding of the grassroots of the game, particularly junior cricket.
"CA believes this challenge can be met while still rewarding players very well for their undoubted contribution. CA and the State and Territory Associations are responsible for the health of the whole game, not just the elite level where more than 70 percent of all CA funding is currently directed.
"In addition to rejecting any change to the existing model, the ACA rejected out of hand and without discussion the very positive remuneration and benefits proposal made by CA in March. The proposal offers significant increases in pay and benefits for all players over the next five years.
"CA's March offer also provides women with the option of pursuing a fully professional sporting career and has been hailed as a landmark achievement in gender equity in sport.
"A week ago CA offered significant concessions in an effort to reach an agreement by 30 June. These were also rejected out of hand through the media – again without any discussion – by the ACA.
"Those concessions were a genuine attempt by CA to address key concerns raised by players, including the inclusion of all domestic players alongside internationals in the share of the game’s surplus.
"Over the past months CA has repeatedly sought to engage with the ACA in a genuine dialogue and to commence a proper negotiation process.
"It is regrettable that these efforts have been rebuffed, resulting in the current situation which CA recognises is not in the interests of either the players or the game.
CA is concerned that many players will be without a contract from midnight tonight and this may place significant financial and emotional strain on them and their families.
"It is unfortunate that the ACA’s hard-line and inflexible position has not been conducive to delivering any positive outcomes or certainty for players.
"CA has also been dismayed that the ACA’s rhetoric, both publicly and directly to the players, has burdened the current generation of players with an unfair sense of responsibility for defending a decades-old pay model that no longer suits the very different needs of the modern game.
"The existing revenue share model has achieved its purpose and was never intended to be an heirloom passed down over the decades, never to be changed.
"The pace of change in the game has never been greater and the competition from other sports never more intense. The key to cricket's future is strong junior and grassroots cricket, an area of the game that urgently needs a better share of the game’s resources.
"CA is now asking elite players to make a contribution towards meeting this need, while still receiving very significant increases in pay and benefits over the next MOU period. CA has also committed to finding savings from across its own operations to be redirected to the grassroots.
"The AFL is the latest major sport to demonstrate that it possible to achieve these objectives and also have a genuine partnership with players without the inflexibility built into cricket’s pay model.
CA remains resolute that the fixed revenue share model must change in the broader interests of cricket.
"It continues to believe that a new MOU can be agreed in the near future if the ACA is prepared to acknowledge the magnitude and pace of change that is occurring and come to the table with a genuine spirit of flexibility.
"CA urges the ACA to do so with a renewed sense of urgency in the best interests of players and the game."