Last Monday, news broke of a likely clash between the West Indies team and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) over the prospect of a player strike in relation to contracts for the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 Tournament in India.
As a result, the issue was discussed on Mid Wicket, The Real Cricket Show, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday, with WICB Chief Executive Officer, Michael Muirhead, who was interviewed by moderator, Keith Holder.
Following is the first half of the interview:
HOLDER: West Indies cricket is facing the prospect of a players strike on the eve of the World Twenty20 in India. From all reports, the contracts are to be signed by February 14. What’s really going on?
MUIRHEAD: There is no strike pending. What is pending is that certain players may not make themselves available but there is no strike pending.
We have received a letter from Mr. Sammy, captain of our World T20 team, seeking to have or representing he says, 14 of 15 members of the squad who are not members of West Indies Players Association (WIPA) and he wants to change the terms of engagement, that are expressed in the draft contract that we have sent them and as it specifically relates to remuneration.
Now, it is interesting that it is 12 days before they travel that we received the request, so to speak, where they have had possession of the terms under which we will engage them some nine months ago, and we had not had any dissenting voices until yesterday (Monday, February 8). It begs the question as to what the motive may be and I can only say that we have acted in good faith and have been very transparent and we have laid down what was to be had by these players from as early as May and it was done through a process.
I may as well just tell you the process that we actually went through, quickly. After we had the abandoned tour in India (October 17, 2014) and when we had the WIPA agreement signed and players were not very happy with what was agreed, there was some intervention by some prime ministers and at that time we agreed that we would go through a mediation/arbitration process. If we couldn’t agree through mediation, then it would go to arbitration.
We all agreed that it would be done through WIPA and WIPA would be the representative body. We convened a panel that had Sir Brian Young as the chairman and Brian Young is a former senior partner of Price Waterhouse Coopers, as well as he sits on many of the major Boards across the region including Neal & Massy, Trinidad Cement and others.
We also had representing the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA) Ian Smith, who was also present and we had representing the ICC, their Chief Operating Officer and legal counsel. So we had a panel that was well equipped to deal with the matter at hand. Then we had WIPA, who ever is represented and the WICB.
We went through a very rigorous process over many days and eventually we came to an agreement. That agreement was signed off on and it was presented one week after to the players, who were in a retreat in Barbados and we got those players together, who were present and just for numbers sake, five of the current squad, were in that number. And we presented it in hard copy, and what we presented was remuneration at every level, every dollar that the WICB would pay and how we would pay it, how much that would be. Whether you be a franchise player, whether you are playing in a bilateral home series, away series, ICC Tournament, whether you are injured. It addressed every aspect of remuneration for every player, falling under the WICB umbrella.
Now everybody had a chance to discuss that and there was very little dissention, so to speak. We eventually had also disseminated by way of email to all the international players and we also sent it to the territorial Boards and Franchises and ask that they disseminate it to their players, whether they be international or franchise players. So we had widespread distribution of the terms that we were working with.
Part of what prompted all of that, too, was, remember that there was an ICC revamp where the Big Three sought to take charge of cricket worldwide, and resulting from that was a whole restructuring of how payments were made. Now, three revamps, every event was priced, everybody knew what revenue they were going to make from it and they were able to allocate or identify the revenue that would be derived from the specific event, whether it be the World T20, the Cricket World Cup or whatever other ICC event there was.
But with the revamp, surprisingly, I remember India had said that they are responsible for over 80% of the global viewership of cricket and therefore broadcast revenue being the major revenue source, they thought that they should be getting the lion share of revenue. Well, they did get the lion’s share and Australia and England also got much greater shares, and it cascaded down in some formula that provided the other seven nations with various allocations.
I say this because there is absolutely no correlation between what happened in 2012 in terms of the value of the tournament and what is happening in 2016. This is the first ICC event under the revamp that is taking place. So we have nothing to compare apples to apples in going forward.
Now, the players claim that their salary or remuneration has been cut dramatically. We went through this exercise before when they had the World Cup and the reason whey we actually went to mediation and doing all what we did was because we changed the formula which saw the remuneration of all players.
Previously we used to pay 15 players and those were the international players. They got a huge portion of all the earnings of West Indies Cricket Board. We certainly were paying a lot but not getting a lot in return and felt that we had to expand and make cricket into… along came the franchise system which made professionalized cricket across a much broader cadre of cricketers.
Having done that we moved from 15 players getting all the money to 105 players getting the lion’s share of our funding. Notwithstanding those 15 of our international players still got sizable amount of the entire amount. And what we said, and this is done worldwide, we allocated 25 per cent of the revenues of the West Indies Cricket Board, whether it be from ICC sponsorship, anywhere that it comes from, we made that available for remuneration to the players.
Bear in mind that we are doing it over a four-year period and we are guaranteeing certain revenues over that four-year period. It puts us at risk in that we are guaranteed to give players a certain amount, which we are not certain of what some of our revenues will be, but our best estimate, and we have guaranteed that we will pay them this minimum amount.
If there is a shortfall in that minimum amount, we have to get it anywhere we can, meaning borrow but we have to make up any shortfalls. If we go over that amount and there is excess revenue because they performed well and additional sponsorship revenue came in, or we got a windfall from elsewhere, then the excess that we make is shared by the WIPA agreement, is shared solely with those international players. So there is a big upsize for them if we make more money.
Now for them to come and say 12 days before the tournament that they want to go to a formula, which doesn’t exist because as I said there is no correlation between what happened in 2014 and what happens in 2016, the last one was 2012, I wouldn’t say it is an impasse, but we certainly stated our position and would seek for the players to realize that the position is one of fairness and one that was there for their critique some nine months ago. We are hoping that come the 14th of February, which is this Sunday that they will sign the contract and then they will move on to camp in Dubai on the 20th.
If they don’t sign, then West Indies Cricket Board has do what it has to do but we will be participating in the World T20 Tournament and we will be fielding a team and the best available team. But we really hope that this squad that the selectors have chosen will make themselves available for the Tournament.
HOLDER: Now Mr. Muirhead, I get the impression that based on your solid foundation that the Board probably feels now it has been hijacked, even kidnapped. Why is there this consistency of a fall-out between the Board and players on the eve of such important tournaments?
Even before your answer, I would just want to quote a couple paragraphs from the T20 captain, Darren Sammy, in which he says: “We want to represent the West Indies but the financials on offer we can’t accept. Obviously I am not privy to exact numbers paid to the WICB from the ICC, but I understand USD $8m will be paid to the Board.
Traditionally 25% has been paid to the squad. That would equate to USD $2m / 15 therefore approximately USD $133,000 per player.
Worse case scenario the squad would earn $414,000 collectively under the terms of the contract offered by WICB to participate in the T20 World Cup 2016. That is just over 5%. A staggering difference, a near 80% reduction.”
I somehow get the feeling that with 14 of the 15 players having nothing at all to do with Wavell Hinds’ WIPA and just a couple years your president Dave Cameron and Hinds were having all sorts of pictures and telling us everything was rosy, could there be a case of the former president and CEO of WIPA, Dinanath Ramnarine, playing a part in this whole scenario? Sammy has admitted he does not have all the information.
MUIRHEAD: As I said, there is no correlation basing it on what happened some years ago. What happened with the whole revamping, ICC and the splitting up of the revenue in a completely different manner… that eight million I don’t know where he got it from but we are not sure where he got it, but what I can assure you is that it is totally incorrect.
Because of that revamp and the change in the distribution by the full members, this happens just to be the first Tournament that is under the revamp ICC distribution.
Now, the payments are spread out over an eight-year cycle rather than being paid in a lump sum and attributed to any one event. That’s what used to happen in the past. Therefore, it is not possible to identify any particular sum, which is paid to the WICB by the ICC in respect of this Tournament.
In fact, I have said it before and I will say it again. When India came in they said that should get 80%. Well, they are responsible for 80% of global viewership; therefore they should be entitled to a lot more money. Now, they are getting a lot more money and the distribution has just changed completely.
All I can say is that he said he didn’t have full information and I can’t even give him the information that he would like to know how much is the tournament worth because it is over eight years.
It is an eight-year cycle. If in two years in that eight-year cycle there is no tournament, what happens? So it is distributed evenly over eight years. The Cricket World Cup may earn more than others but it is distributed equally over the eight years, equally to each member but not equal among members because India gets more, Australia gets a little less than India, England will get less. We fall way down in terms of what they distribute.
I don’t know how that figure came about but what I can tell you is that we agreed that they will be paid three times the current rate that is paid for the T20 bilaterals, they will get 50% of any shirt sponsorship that we have paid and we are close to trying to conclude a deal for that, which they would get 50% and most importantly, they get 80% of the prize money that is there at stake.
Now the prize money has increased from three million dollars to 5.6 million, and that is usually distributed fairly right through, with the winner getting $1.6 and runner-up $800 000. Previously it was $1.1 and $550 000.
The No. 1 ranked team should feel quite comfortable in vying for that position and really enhancing their earnings through winning because they are there to try and win the Tournament.
About five of the players are under retainer contracts. They are obligated to play. I don’t know what will happen but they have an obligation by virtue of being retained that they must make themselves available to the West Indies Cricket Board when called upon to do so, and we are calling upon them to play in the World T20.
The others who are not, certainly have the option of not accepting the terms under which we are offering, but we would sincerely hope that they will see the light almost and understand where we are coming from and accept those terms and seek to enhance their earnings by performing.
Yes, they have taken their position but this a position which existed for nine months and now two weeks before (start of Tournament) you are now sort of saying you do not agree with a position that was there for nine months. I have a problem with it.
HOLDER: It is clear that on Valentine’s Day, there will be a lot of love lost. I take it at this juncture that you have your chairman Clive Lloyd and his fellow selectors very busy with the likelihood of replacement players because you have alluded to the fact that the West Indies Cricket Board will do what it has to do in the circumstances.
The recent retainer contracts, which were issued to 15 players, have they all signed?
MUIRHEAD: Yes. They have.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com.