MONEY - it's almost a dirty word in sport, but the trouble is there is an awful lot of it floating around, and everybody wants their share. Last year, for example, the ECB turned over nearly £134M, which was, in fact, down from the previous year of £175M.
In Australia they would normally be announcing their 20 centrally contracted male players about now (with the women named a month later), but no announcement will be made for at least a month as pay talks between Cricket Australia (their equivalent of the ECB) and the Australian Cricket Association (the players' union - here we have the Professional Cricketers Association) are currently in deadlock.
CA and the ACA have to agree a Memorandum of Understanding, which sets out how all players are paid. For the past 20 years this has been by way of a revenue-sharing method, which has seen the centrally contracted men earn in excess of $1M (AUD), and has also included all state players and latterly women players. If Australian cricket is successful then they get paid more. But now CA wants to move away from this model for all but the international men. State players and women (including the international women) would not share in CA's revenue, but would have their salaries decided by CA. The ACA however is holding out for a MOU which covers all players, male and female, and retains the current revenue sharing model.
Women cricketers in Australia are already better paid and better represented than their counterparts here in the UK. All 120 female players who have either a Southern Stars contract (min $40,000); state contract (min $11,000) or a WBBL contract (min $7,000) are represented by the ACA. Here in England only the 18 current centrally contracted England players are members of the PCA. County players have no contracts and are paid nothing, and those who played in the KSL last year were paid match fees only if they played, with the winners and runners-up sharing prize money between the 15 strong player squads. Whilst neither group are members of the PCA, the PCA have confirmed that they have been working with the ECB on behalf of the KSL players, and that contract payments will be made to all KSL players this year.
Back in Australia the current Aussie MOU expires at the end of June, which means that there are going to be some feverish negotiations over the coming few weeks. Whether CA can convince the ACA that it should agree to the change in the model looks doubtful at the moment, but if a deal can be reached then it is likely that there could be some significant increases in pay for women cricketers in Australia, reflecting the increased profile for the game and the success of the WBBL, in terms of television audiences, if not in actual paying spectators*, **.
With the WWC17 looming CA will be keen to get their 2017 list of Southern Stars contracted players finalised sooner rather than later. Currently there are 15 players on Southern Stars contracts - Blackwell, Beams, Bolton, Cheatle, Farrell, Ferling, Healy, Harris, Jonassen, Lanning, Mooney, Osborne, Perry, Schutt, and Villani. It would be surprising if Harris and Osborne retain their contracts, and there has to be some doubt about Ferling. Likely to be added to the list will be Ash Gardner and Amanda-Jade Wellington, who have forced their way into the squad in recent months. Others also likely to be on the CA radar are Sophie Molineux and Molly Strano. For those that lose their Southern Stars contract it will be a blow, but with state contracts and WBBL contracts, plus some states (NSW) already making up state contracts to the Aussie minimum wage ($35,000), it is not as catstrophic as it would be to an England player, who has no county contract to fall back on.
These are early days in the world of professional women's cricket, and, whilst huge steps have been taken over the past few years, it is still a precarious existence for many players.
* Cricket Australia have now tabled an offer to the ACA which includes some huge increases in pay for all women cricketers in Australia (see here), but seems to omit any revenue sharing for most players. The ACA's response has been muted, stating that they need to take a look at the fine print of the offer.
** Southern Stars contracted players Alex Blackwell (link to radio interview) and Erin Osborne (link to SMH interview) have both confirmed that the women want to be part of the MOU, but also part of the revenue sharing model. In other words the current offer on the table from CA would not be acceptable.