Australia A will not tour South Africa this month after an unprecedented player boycott, sparked by a bitter pay dispute with Cricket Australia (CA).
The Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) confirmed the tour would not go ahead, as negotiations with CA failed to make any progress.
It is the first time in history Australia’s cricket players have boycotted a tour.
The ACA said it was “with great frustration” the call was made, but the decision was made “in support of more than 200 male and female players who are now unemployed”.
“All players are deeply disappointed at the behaviour of CA which forces this course of action, given the players would rather be playing for their country,” the ACA statement read.
“CA refuse to attend mediation or offer any genuine flexibility in the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] negotiations. And without mediation it’s hard to see how there can be the progress necessary to reach agreement.
“The players want to make sure all men and women who play the game are treated fairly, and that grassroots funding is not drained by a top-heavy bureaucracy.”
The ACA said the decision by the players to boycott the tour, which would have given valuable experience to what is effectively Australia’s second XI, was an “incredibly selfless act that shows their strength and overall commitment to the group”.
The boycott marked the most serious action taken by the ACA and the players in the dispute to date, with players actively choosing not to play in Australian colours.
What makes this cancellation unprecedented?
This is the first time Australia’s players have led a boycott of an upcoming cricket tour.
There have been previous boycotts, but they have been spearheaded either by Australia’s cricketing authorities or the Federal Government.
The Australian Government boycotted the 2007 tour of Zimbabwe, with then prime minister John Howard saying any tour would give a propaganda boost to Zimbabwe’s government and president Robert Mugabe, who Howard described as a “grubby dictator”.
South Africa was also meant to tour Australia in 1971, but the Australian Cricket Board cancelled the tour amid anti-apartheid protests, which had dominated the Springbok rugby team’s earlier tour of Australia.
CA says tour should have gone ahead after recent progress
CA said recent negotiations between the two sides had given it hope the tour would have gone ahead despite no new MOU having been agreed upon.
It also appeared to rebuke claims chief executive James Sutherland had not been part of the pay talks, saying he had been in “regular communication” with his ACA counterpart, Alistair Nicholson.
A statement from the sport’s national governing body said the tour would have cost approximately $250,000 to stage, with that money now set to be pumped into a national fund aimed at improving community cricket.
CA previously touted the benefits of an Australia A tour for the development of players and doubled down on that sentiment after the ACA’s announcement.
“CA has never and would never attempt to compel any player to represent Australia at any level if they were unwilling to do so,” the statement read.
“Australia A gives players an opportunity to perform and gain experience at a high level against quality international opposition.”
With an important Ashes summer looming, the ACA had spoken of a possible contingency plan to avoid such a situation should an agreement with CA not be met.
In a statement released on Sunday, the ACA said: “All players expressed a strong desire to participate in the Australian summer of cricket.”
Though it reiterated the preferred method of achieving this was by coming up with a new agreed MOU, the ACA did make note of a contingency plan.
The ACA said in the event no MOU could be agreed upon, it would discuss with the players, “an exclusive option to employ or second them”, allowing them to play for CA teams “on the right terms”.
“This may extend to the ACA offering the players back to CA on the right terms for the purposes of rescuing the summer of cricket,” the statement read.
But the ACA was eager to emphasise the players would remain united in not playing for a CA team while no agreement had been reached in an “outright rejection of CA’s attempts to divide and rule”.