"We've fulfilled our promise": Greg Dyer on 25 years since the first MOU

14 December, 2023

Below is an edited extract of Greg Dyer's opening remarks at the 2023 ACA AGM, which is also reflected in the 2022-23 Annual Report.

Twenty-five years ago, cricket was alone among Australia’s major sports in that it did not have a collective bargaining agreement with its players. The then recently constituted Australian Cricketers’ Association aspired to replace common-law contracts with an agreement for the betterment of not only those representing Australia but also those cricketers plying their trade in the Sheffield Shield, whose remuneration was comparatively meagre for elite sport.

After protracted negotiation, the players emerged with a deal that gave them a fair percentage share of revenue. More than that, it established the players as partners in the game with an influence on matters about Australian cricket.

To consider the ground that the ACA has travelled in the 25 years since is to be proud of the extent to have fulfilled our promise to represent the interests of our members and to be an important partner in the game.

The most recent long-term MOU, signed earlier this year, strengthens a partnership that only six years earlier stared down a very real challenge to a model that took care of all – largely through the unwavering solidarity of the players.

It enshrines the revenue share agreement as the best model for cricket and recognises the importance of the players to the health of our game.

The agreement is notable for reaffirming cricket’s status as the most lucrative team sport for Australian women – and it is worth reiterating here that it was six years ago when women were included in the same MOU as our men.

A 66% increase in payments to our women cricketers, and more national and state contracts were a key plank of the five-year agreement that reflected the ACA’s long-held commitment to achieving gender equity in cricket.

Importantly, it also reflects a commitment from all parties to grow the game – and there is enormous capacity for growth right across the women’s game, as well as the men’s.

The potential of the women’s game was evident through the world-record crowd that attended the Trent Bridge Test in June. The ACA encourages the scheduling of even more long-format cricket for our female players at an international level.

The men’s Ashes series also demonstrated the vitality of Test cricket, and we are incredibly proud of the spirit in which our men and women played in retaining the Ashes in England – the men, straight off the back of an inaugural Test Championship win.

The vitality of Australia’s white ball cricket is also strong. Our women successfully defended their T20 World Cup title against South Africa on their home turf at Cape Town, and then earlier this week, our men claimed their sixth ODI World Cup in the most hostile of cricket environments – outside of the Long Room at Lords – against India at a packed Narendra Modi Stadium.

The cricket that both our men and women played a style of cricket in which we should all be proud, as well as in a spirit that should be an example to all.

But to maintain this strength on the international stage, we must continue to support our domestic competitions.

The MOU benefitted both men and women through significant investment – most notably into the BBL and WBBL, something that will ensure we continue to have the best players playing as we compete with a more crowded domestic T20 market.

Today, the ACA is well placed to face the challenges of a rapidly changing cricket economy through its strong financial position. Years of astute financial management combined with the proceeds from above forecast Australian cricket revenue and the ACA-CA joint venture for the non-fungible token (NFT) program provides us with a solid asset base that puts us in a strong position to continue to deliver for our members – for current, past, and future players – and will underpin the financial sustainability of the ACA for years to come.

Recent work has been undertaken to develop a new five-year strategic plan for the ACA, with broad consultation to ensure engagement and agreement is achieved across our membership.

The soon-to-be-published 2023-2027 ACA Strategic Plan builds on the significant achievements of the previous five-year strategy by primarily ensuring the basic elements of what we do as a players’ association continue to be our major focus.

Having that as our foundation, the plan then looks to provide the capability to respond to the rapidly changing cricket economy.

There is a real and urgent need to reconcile our past achievements and the landscape in which they were undertaken with a vastly different future for our game – a future that will no doubt be defined by change both planned and by result of a lack of consideration from cricket administrators of the longer-term impacts of their decisions.

Whatever the future brings, the ACA must not only retain its relevancy to members but should also play a substantive role, in elevating the voice of the players, to better shape it. As Steve Waugh said of the nascent ACA: “That’s why you have to make an unselfish decision here, not just for yourself right now but for people in the future.”

The ACA’s strong financial position reflects the organisation’s positive intent and belief in Australian cricket, and provides a resilience that has the potential to have a positive impact not just on our “people in the future”, but on those who came before and helped carve the path for the conditions our players enjoy today.

Throughout the year, our past player program continued to provide a wide range of services to support our members’ personal development, be it through the ACA Medical Support Scheme; Wellbeing Support; Personal Development Grants; or our free member Health Checks that this year was provided to close to 300 members, including 128 who received a heart check, provided through the support of the ACA for the first time.

We also supported our past players through several initiatives to improve Australian cricket at all levels. This included opportunities for our members to share their knowledge and passion for the game within grassroots and Premier cricket through paid coaching, Game Development appearances and the Premier Cricket Program. These partnerships are built into the MOU and have seen our current players commit funding from their portion of the game’s revenue to areas that need assistance.

In this generous spirit, I’d like to acknowledge the incredible contribution made to the ACA by Shane Watson, who concludes his service as a director after ten years, the last four as President.

Shane is a man who cares deeply about the game of cricket and those who play it.

To talk with Shane is to know that he greatly understands and appreciates that he was able to enjoy the career in the game that he had, through the work done by all those who came before him, most of whom gave more to the game than they received.

He has long advocated for the sort of support for past members that the Players Cordon will provide, and I am so glad we were able to institute this important initiative during his presidency.

Shane has also used his own experience of the game – the life of a cricketer in the fishbowl, the scrutiny and pressure, as well as the months on the road away from family – to advocate for more mental health support for our players.

In Shane’s time at the ACA, it is an area that we have, along with CA, continued to strengthen. Much of this is by having the right people in the right places to provide that support when required.

On behalf of the Board, I want to acknowledge the significant contribution Shane has made to the ACA, and by extension all of our players. The impact you have made will continue to serve the game for many years to come.

And thank you to everyone involved with the ACA – our Board, player delegates, and staff – all of whom bring a dedication that allows us to realise outcomes that benefit all our members, as well as the game of Australian cricket more broadly.

© Australian Cricket Players Limited
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
The Australian Cricketers’ Association acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders both past and present.