Cricket, ugly cricket
The latest preckeh in West Indies cricket is, as usual, unfolding in full public view.
Once again, we have a strike threat from players whose performance on the field could lead frustrated West Indies cricket fans to ask, "What's the difference?" Usually, when strike action is called, it's by workers or their unions when workers have reached tipping point with perceived injustices from employers. These West Indies players seem to be threatening strike because of the actions of their own union, the West Indies Players Association (WIPA). Surely, this is no basis to threaten commercial concerns of innocent third parties, including the Indian Cricket Board and cricket fans everywhere.
Let's begin with some facts:
WIPA has, over the years, focused its bargaining activities on obtaining incentives for international players. Since the majority of WIPA members have infrequently or never played an international cricket match (i.e., one between West Indies and another), this would appear somewhat inconsistent with its duty and mandate.
In February, at a WIPA AGM, the idea of trying to get more for 'other' members was floated and, to this end, 'senior' players say they agreed to give up their 'right' to a share of sponsorship funds (provided alternatives were found to make up some of the loss).
The following verbatim extract from the minutes of that meeting confirms the players' insistence on that condition:
"Mr Dwayne Bravo then stated that he supports 100 per cent the proposal, but certain conditions must be discussed, one of them being no pay drop for the senior team and that the other being salary be raised to compensate the loss of the sponsorship fee."
WIPA proceeded to negotiate a new MOU with the WICB, which was hailed as "historic" by WICB President Dave Cameron. The philosophy behind the new MOU was that seniors would take less so there would be more to spread around. As a result, US$735,000 in sponsorship funds, formerly paid to 15 internationals, was used to fund 90 new retainer contracts for WIPA members who'd previously not been contracted.
Apparently, WIPA neglected to update the seniors regarding details of negotiations and none of our three cricket captains thought it worth their time to occasionally check with WIPA to insist on updates. As a result, the MOU was signed without express approval from the seniors, who left for India unaware of the terms of their new contracts.
When the squad received their contracts in India, they realised their entitlement to sponsorship sharing was now zero without any quid pro quo except those with retainer contracts received a small increase in retainer fees. The bottom line: Those playing all ODIs in India will earn US$11,500 for their troubles (down from US$21,667 under the old arrangement) and those playing all games take a cut from US$75,500 to US$30,375 (all before tax).
The reduction in fees are 47 per cent (ODIs only); 55 per cent (T20 only); 60 per cent (all games); and 65 per cent (Tests only).
The players say they contacted WIPA President Wavell Hinds to complain and were advised by Hinds NOT TO SIGN THE CONTRACTS as the MOUs weren't final, so he (Hinds) would renegotiate with WICB. Up to press time, my WIPA sources were unable to confirm or deny this, but Hinds did approach WICB, expressing the players' discontent.
Apparently, his renegotiation attempts were summarily rejected by WICB, which asserted the signed MOU was final and binding.
In today's stagnant economies, no professional can stomach such a severe, immediate income cut. In my opinion, Hinds ought to have obtained specific written assent to the MOU from a majority of international players (or from the three captains on their behalf) before signing off. Players have a right to know EXACTLY what they're giving up before it's a fait accompli. In my opinion, West Indies' cricket captains were negligent in not following up WIPA to insist on updates before flying off to India on a baseless assumption all was copacetic. Bobby Fray always said to 'assume' is to make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'.
I believe the entire public show of mutual disrespect could be avoided if WIPA simply sought a legal opinion on the MOU's enforceability before accepting the WICB's assertion. My understanding of MOUs, properly so called, is they're subject to formal contract after ratification by affected individuals.
WIPA, WICB and the players should meet and work this out with, if needed, the help of a professional mediator. Let's not turn West Indies cricket into a perpetual poppy show.
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.