South African Cricket Players Association (Saca) chairman Tony Irish has warned Cricket South Africa (CSA) to tread carefully in relation to discussions over the upcoming Memorandum of understanding (MOU) as “they should look at what happened in Australia”.
Recently Cricket Australia (CA) and its players were involved in an acrimonious stand-off over player contracts that even led to talk of a player strike and a cancelled Australia A tour to South Africa when CA wanted to scrap the revenue-share model.
The CSA-players MOU gets renegotiated every four years, and the deal has included a revenue-sharing model for the past 12 years. The current agreement expires at the end of April and CSA are viewing it as a potential game-changer.
Acting CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe has very specific ideas on how the organisation needs to interact with its players - who he referred to as “employees” - and the “trade union”, in reference to Saca, to which the players belong.
“I just have a view on how a company should be run from the management point of view and how a company needs to engage with a trade union. Obviously, I will be presenting my views to the board and the board will make its decision. If the board feels that’s the way they want to go, so be it. That is for the board and its members to debate. Ultimately the people that make money for cricket are Cricket South Africa, it’s not a union.
“Ultimately CSA needs to run cricket and the trade union needs to protect their players’ rights. If CSA is trampling on people's rights, the union must step in. If CSA decides to take a different direction in growing cricket, there is no room for a union there because we are not trampling on people's rights, we are protecting the sport that we have been put in charge to administer,” Moroe added.
Irish and Saca have yet to be informed of any of the pending developments. They are responsible for negotiations with CSA on behalf of the players. “I would be astounded if CSA takes a confrontational approach to the talks. They should look at what happened in Australia,” Irish told Independent Media on Thursday. “We have these negotiations every four years and it is always a hard negotiation because it is very detailed. But the noises we are hearing from CSA are concerning and go against the spirit of how things have worked in the past.”
Moroe admitted CSA would be "wary" of events in Australia, but stressed that the evolving nature of the sport lent itself to a change in approach to contracting players.
“One of the ways we are looking to contract our Proteas is maybe by awarding Test contracts like the ECB does, and allow everybody else to be paid on pay-per-play,” Moroe said.
“Ultimately all white-ball cricketers make their money playing in these (T20) leagues outside of their local programmes. By contracting Test players you have the opportunity to look after your premium players, players you would like to keep for long in the game.”
Irish welcomed the idea of Test cricketers being “better rewarded” but not at the expense of white-ball cricketers.
A further issue Moroe and CSA president Chris Nenzani raised was the deployment of Proteas at the various franchises around the country.
The current system in place has the contracted Proteas selecting the franchises they wish to play for. In the recent RamSlam T20 Challenge which the Titans franchise won, a number of Proteas sat on the sidelines for large parts of the competition due to their big squad.
“We could look to implement a draft system,” Moroe said.
“We realise the importance of having the Proteas spread throughout the franchises. We were very happy with how the Ra Slam was executed, but as Cricket South Africa we feel that it could have been that much better if we had all Proteas playing at the same time in different teams.
“If our players don’t want to be drafted into different teams they will come to us first and talk to us.
"Failing those talks between employer and employee, they can go to their union, and then their union can come back representing a certain viewpoint.
"This is not about stopping the growth of cricket and how cricket can be administered in this country, so we might not even consult with SACA to be honest with you.”