A Cricket Australia move to appease disenfranchised state associations has fallen flat as a shake-up of the national board remains on the cards following an off-season crisis.
The governing body angered NSW and Queensland officials during a turbulent autumn and winter that cost chief executive Kevin Roberts his job, leading powerbrokers to agitate for a CA board revamp after growing tired of the game's “top down, we know best” administration.
NSW and Queensland have steadfastly opposed CA's demands for states to have their distributions slashed by 25 per cent, cuts which have contributed to more than 200 jobs being lost in the game during the pandemic.
Now, a month after Roberts departed and Englishman Nick Hockley was parachuted in as his interim replacement, CA has revised its contentious approach on funding to the six states, who are its shareholders.
In an email sent by Hockley to state chiefs on Tuesday, an offer was tabled under which the size of the grants from head office would be calculated based on CA’s revenue figures after each quarter rather than on forecast revenues, with cuts capped at 25 per cent.
It means states wouldn't automatically be stripped of a quarter of their grants despite four of them having already signed up to that and offloaded many staff accordingly. While the proposal is less aggressive, it left some officials scratching their heads and even questioning whether it was issued in error.
The states were originally asked to take a 25 per cent hit when CA was working around an overall revenue shortfall of 50 per cent in the coming year, with an agreement to revise the amount if the game performed better. According to sources with knowledge of the new proposal, CA's losses would be tied in percentage terms to the cuts to states, meaning if the game falls short of its revenue targets by only 25 per cent, for instance, the states would feel the same pain as when cricket's incomings were forecast to be halved. In short, it looks like a worse deal for states than the previous one.
The development follows CA’s move a fortnight ago to quell tension with the Australian Players Association by withdrawing a forecast that claimed the game could lose more than $200 million, nearly 50 per cent of its projected revenue, in the 2020-21 financial year.
While his message to states wasn't received well by all, there was some significance in the fact it was Hockley’s name appearing in the inboxes of CEOs this week. Roberts’ demise was sealed when his relationships with officials at states and the players’ union deteriorated to such an extent that CA chief operating officer Scott Grant ended up issuing the contentious forecast to the union while chairman Earl Eddings and other board members were called upon to play a greater role in dealing with the ACA and unhappy states.
After Hockley was quietly plucked from his job as Twenty20 World Cup chief in the days before Roberts’ exit was announced, the consensus was that the Oxford-educated events specialist would be a seat warmer only. That may still prove the case but the absence of urgency from CA in the hunt for a permanent replacement for Roberts gives the man from Birmingham a head start in making his case for the full-time job, if he wants it.
CA anticipates that Hockley will be in place until the end of the summer. If he enjoys success in the coming months, there may be comparisons with the situation at the NRL, where Andrew Abdo has shone to such an extent as interim CEO since April that he looks set to be handed the rugby league reins for good.