Australia's players have been offered key concessions in their pay dispute with Cricket Australia, but the Australian Cricketers Association has been enraged by the board's decision to simultaneously send out contract offers to players.
A week before the expiry of the current MoU, and following the most recent meeting between the two parties on Wednesday, CA's lead negotiator Kevin Roberts wrote to the ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson stating that the board is willing to allow all players to share in profits above projections and also to significantly increase payment for domestic male players in recognition of their contribution.
These two issues have been central to the dispute, after CA's initial offer afforded "blue sky" payments above fixed wages to only the top male and female players, while at the same time placing a virtual freeze on payment levels for domestic male players at a time when the next Big Bash League broadcast rights deal is expected to offer a rich windfall to the game.
However, the letter was accompanied by contract offers sent to all players despite talks between the two parties being a long way from resolved. The contracts do not specify their terms and conditions, moving the ACA to advise players not to sign.
"The ACA notes that CA has made a revised MoU offer and sent it to the players. They have also issued 'contract offers' directly to individual players for their signature; bypassing the ACA," the association said in a statement. "The ACA has advised players not to sign. The letter provided to players today from CA does not accurately reflect how far apart the parties remain with a week to go. The parties have not reached agreement on many fundamental issues.
"The contract offers do not contain Revenue Sharing for all players, and are not what they appear to be. They do not include crucial information regarding terms and conditions. Further, as has been requested since August 2016, critical financial and forecasting information has yet to be provided so the ACA can properly assess the offers and advise the players accordingly. This remains unacceptable."
In the letter, seen by ESPNcricinfo, Roberts said that following his national "roadshow" to speak to state squads, CA is now prepared to "increase the international cricket surpluses that are shared with players, include all domestic players in the sharing arrangements, and increase annual pay rises to male state players with commensurate increases for WNCL and WBBL players to maintain gender pay equity". The letter does not feature any financial details, as figures are believed to be open for discussion.
At the same time, Roberts also indicated that players will now be offered contracts, with the provision to change their terms pending the outcome of further talks between CA and the ACA. "These contracts are conditional upon a new MoU being agreed," Roberts wrote. "If further increases in pay are agreed for male state players, along with WNCL and WBBL players due to the increases contemplated above, the offers in the contracts would be varied accordingly.
"The contracts would not require any variation for the inclusion of domestic players in the sharing of any international cricket surpluses above the level required to fund player payments. We trust that the ACA will respond positively to this new offer that CA is proposing in order to achieve a positive outcome for the players and the game."
While the concessions appear significant, there is no indication that CA is willing to budge on no longer offering the players a fixed percentage of agreed revenue over the next five years, the cornerstone of MoUs between the board and the ACA over the past 20 years. Equally, CA appears to remain intent upon rolling a portion of the "adjustment ledger" money from the current MoU into the next one, a move the players have rejected on the basis that it is money they have already earned.
There was an adjustment ledger rollover in the previous 2012 MoU, but this was only due to the fact that the previous deal - a one-year agreement signed for 2011-12 - included far more money than would have been available in other years due to the fact that a lucrative India tour took place that summer. Without any carryover of money from that deal, the players' wages would have spiked dramatically for one season then dropped off significantly in subsequent seasons.
The ACA president Greg Dyer stated on Friday that "emergency mediation" was required between Nicholson and his CA counterpart James Sutherland to end the dispute and prevent a host of chaotic scenarios unfolding post-June 30, including around half of all players falling out of contract.
"The current talks between the Australian Cricketers' Association and Cricket Australia have failed to achieve a break through," Dyer said. "With only seven days until the June 30 deadline, the ACA calls for emergency mediation to be conducted at CEO level. With this the ACA continues to search for ways to resolve the dispute. We are motivated by a sense of duty to the game and its players and frustration at the current process.
"The ACA are instructed in this call by Australia's male and female cricketers, who are determined to ensure every avenue is explored to avoid the post-June 30 cliff. We are hopeful that the common sense offers of flexibility made in negotiations will be treated more respectfully in an elevated and mediated environment.
"As things stand, from June 30 most of Australia's elite male and female cricket players will be unemployed, jeopardising upcoming tours and ultimately the summer of cricket. This creates uncertainty for broadcasters, sponsors, players and administrators. And potentially stains the game, in the eyes of fans, and Australia's reputation in the international community."
Dyer said that, among other things, CA is yet to provide the ACA's negotiating team with adequate financial forecasts about the state of the game over the next five years. CA has repeatedly claimed that the level of detail the ACA is seeking is not able to be provided due to a raft of commercial and broadcast deals needing to be negotiated over the next 12 months.
"The ACA is yet to receive the necessary financial information and forecasts to inform Australia's male and female professional cricketers," Dyer said. "We have been calling for this since August 2016. To date, CA has only been willing to provide financial 'scenarios' and 'formulas', which lack the detail and scope required.
"The players believe in the principle of sharing in the revenue they generate. The players asked CA for financial and forecasting information in August 2016. This has not been provided by CA, even though it has been provided in the past MOU negotiations. The players have offered two detailed submissions, spent seven months at the formal negotiating table and in May 2017 first called for mediation."
A CA spokesman said that more detailed financial information had been provided to the ACA during the most recent set of meetings: "Full financial information was provided to the ACA in confidence earlier this week, and the ACA currently has all figures and scenarios that Cricket Australia is working with. This information is sufficient for players and their union to assess CA's pay offer. As CA has explained many times to the ACA, 80% of cricket's revenue is uncontracted for the next five years, and confidential scenarios are the appropriate and financially responsible way to approach the issue."