Australia's cricketers are considering the formal payment MOU offer announced by Cricket Australia (CA) on Tuesday, as the board pushes on with its attempt to break up the fixed percentage of revenue share agreement that has existed since 1998.
While CA have agreed with the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) to include women in a single MOU for the first time, the remainder of the offer stays broadly in line with the initial pay submission presented to the players late last year. Talks have so far been the most fractious since the ACA was formed 20 years ago. The offer was formally submitted to the ACA this afternoon.
James Sutherland, the CA chief executive, heralded measures such as equal hourly rates of pay for male and female domestic players, an increase for women of 125% next to their current deals. He also outlined the overall increase in player remuneration from A$311 million over the current MOU period (2012-17) to A$419 million over the next MOU (2017-2022).
"We are pleased that the Australian Cricketers Association agrees with us that women, for the first time, should be part of the MOU, and we have proposed a financial model that has gender equity at its heart," Sutherland said.
"Under the proposal, women will receive an immediate average pay increase of more than 125%. As a result, our international women cricketers will see their average pay increase from A$79,000 to A$179,000, as of July 1 this year. By 2021, we expect to see our international women cricketers earning an average of A$210,000.
"And our state female cricketers, playing both WNCL [Women's National Cricket League] and WBBL [Women's Big Bash League], will see their average remuneration more than double from A$22,000 to A$52,000 this year. Under this offer, we will achieve gender equity by ensuring that the minimum and average hourly pay will be the same for state men and women in 2017/18. In addition, match fees for the WNCL and the Matador Cup will be exactly the same: a one-day game for a state cricketer is worth the same to both men and women.
"We are also introducing, for the first time, prize money for the WNCL of A$258,000 and the WBBL of A$309,000 this coming summer."
One of the most hotly-contested aspects of the initial CA submission was that only the top male players deserved a fixed share of the game's revenue because they helped provide most of windfall from international matches. Sutherland indicated that CA wanted to offer guaranteed minimums to the players while keeping any blue sky amounts over and above projections for funding other aspects of the game.
CA's figures come with the asterisk that the next round of television rights deals, both for Australian and overseas markets, are resolved over the next 15 months. Sutherland indicated that even if the revenue raised by these deals turned out to be comfortably above current projections, only international players would be entitled to a share in the upside.
"We have placed the emphasis on increasing the guaranteed amount that the men will receive, rather than rely on any projected increase in revenue," Sutherland said. "We understand that the ACA prefers the status quo, but CA believes that the model devised in the 1990s, which is based on a fixed percentage of revenue, has served its intended purpose - to make Australia's cricketers some of the best paid sportspeople in the country.
"It was a means to an end, not something that has to hold us back from providing players with financial certainty, a fair deal for all players including women, and the flexibility to invest in the grassroots of the game.
"This is a landmark agreement. We are now looking forward to sitting down with the ACA to work through the details and we are confident we will be able to announce a completed agreement before June 30."
Another pillar of past MOU agreements was CA's provision of an annual grant to fund the ACA, something the board openly questioned in their initial submission. Sutherland declined to indicate whether this was being maintained in the new offer.
"That's something that is in the detail of the proposal, I don't want to go into that right now," he said. "It's something we can talk about later on. In the first instance we see that as a matter for the members and the ACA to consider and we can talk through that detail in the future."
Both Sutherland and the ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson have spent time with the Test team in India in recent days. The players have so far been united in their rejection of any attempts to break up the revenue sharing model, and have also rebuffed CA's efforts to negotiate directly with the players rather than the ACA.
The national captains Steven Smith and Meg Lanning co-signed a letter to Sutherland to this effect in December after talks broke down. While they have resumed in the new year, the two parties remain a long way apart. Nicholson said that the ACA was positive about some elements of the pay offer, but also stated that much of its detail still needed to be digested before the players respond.
"There is a lot of fine print to examine and a lot more forecast information still needed by the players," he said. "Like all such proposals the devil is always in the details. For the moment, what can be said is that this proposal shows a number of promising signs that indicate that CA has been taking the ACA's lead on various key points from our MOU submission.
"However, with a lack of detail in the terms and conditions that underpin this proposal, the ACA will continue to seek clarification from CA and advise the players on this accordingly. The ACA will respond more fully in the coming weeks."
Australia's looming series decider with India in Dharamsala should ensure that there will be little further jousting until the Test match concludes.