Apologies for our lack of output this week. I’ve been really busy with other stuff and, let’s be honest, there’s been very little to write about. England are playing a T20 series out in the Windies but it all seems a bit irrelevant to be honest. Yes the games are entertaining but I don’t think anyone is too fussed who wins.
I actually found myself in a rather embarrassing position the other day. My father in law, who has just got Sky for the first time, asked me whether I enjoyed the England game earlier this week. My response was “erm, what England game?”. I assumed he was talking about some random football friendly. I had no idea whatsoever that England had just played a T20. It had completely passed me by. And I’m supposed to be a die hard cricket tragic!
I think this is the first time in my life that I’d totally forgotten about an England match. In my mind the tour finished after England’s implosion in the final ODI. Tagging on a few T20s just seems like a random after thought. I’m sure the crowd enjoyed the occasion, as I would’ve done if I’d been there myself, but surely it makes more sense to schedule these games at the very start of tours? This way they serve as an appetiser for the main event rather than a superfluous chocolate alongside your coffee when you’ve already stuffed your face with dessert.
I think the best blueprint for tours was back in 2005. We had a one-off T20 in Southampton, in which England surprised Australia and laid down a marker for the tour ahead, followed by the ODIs, followed by The Ashes. Putting the T20 first gave the game a little more context. It was the first time the teams eyed each other up, went head to head, and managed to land some blows. It really whet the appetite for the summer ahead. Plus it was a useful PR / marketing exercise to generate some excitement for The Ashes. The result really seemed to matter than day too.
In other news the PCA is reportedly set to win a pay rise for England’s professional cricketers. This story interested me because I’d always assumed that some of the wealth generated by the ECB’s monocle-dropping £1bn TV deal would find its way down to the players. After all, if the board and the counties were due a windfall then why not the people who actually participate in the spectacle? It makes sense, right?
Apparently not. According to reports the ECB didn’t envisage the players – the poor sods without whom there could be no Hundred circus – earning anything extra at all. It seems the board wanted to keep the pastry, the steak, the mushrooms, the onions, and the gravy of their grubby pie to themselves.
The PCA obviously weren’t happy about this. Indeed Daryl Mitchell made quite a few strong remarks about the PCA’s stance in the media. And he was quite right to do so:
You can’t have a situation where a huge amount more money comes into the game and the players do not benefit from it. We have made that very clear to the ECB and we are going to be very strong on this issue. It really is non-negotiable.
Although the players actually taking part in The Hundred will be well paid, we shouldn’t forget about the rest of the professionals who populate the championship, the RLODC, and The Blast. After all, they’re surely entitled to a pay rise if their employers are receiving more money themselves?
However, this is a somewhat complicated issue because there are bound to be some knock-on effects. For example, because the players are now set for a pay rise, the salary cap is expected to go up from £1 million year to about £1.5 million. Although this is good news, and will doubtless encourage more talented players to stay within the sport rather than seek employment elsewhere, the authorities have to be careful not to increase the gap between the haves and have-nots.
In rugby union, for example, not all of the clubs can afford to spend up to the cap; therefore every time they increase the salary cap it plays into the hands of wealthy clubs like Saracens, who can monopolise more of the country’s top talent. Smaller clubs like Newcastle Falcons, on the other hand, simply can’t afford a salary bill anywhere near the cap. So the raising of the threshold actually hinders them. It means the circling vultures can offer ever more money to prise away their best emerging talent. It’s no surprise, of course, that Sarries are always in the top 2 whereas Falcons are currently bottom of the table and facing relegation in the face.
The other interesting knock on effect is that county cricket also has a salary floor or ‘collar’. This is the minimum amount that counties must spend on wages. If the PCA do indeed secure this cash boost for players then the collar is expect to rise to £1 million or even more. Try telling counties in debt that they’ve got to shell out 25% more on wages! They’re not going to be happy.
What’s more, county cricket’s minimum wage is set to rise from approximately £18k for young players and £24k for players over 24 year old to something a little fuller. Once again this will impact the counties’ bottom line. Yes the smaller counties will be receiving more money, but I expect many chairmen were hoping this would enable them to balance the books.
One employer who can most definitely afford to line players’ pockets, however, is the ECB. Consequently you won’t be surprised to hear that the value of an England central contract is also going to go up.
Although I haven’t been able to find out precisely what a central contract is worth these days – it used to be easier to find out but they tend not to publicise these things now – it’s widely assumed that England’s top performers earn seven figures per year. Now more money is flooding into the game from the TV broadcasters this sum could apparently rise to as much as £1.5 million per player.
I don’t think anyone would argue that this is an insubstantial amount. In fact it’s rather eye-watering. It’s not exactly the same as a premier league footballer or an NFL star but it’s double or triple what top rugby players earn from their clubs.
These days there’s no doubt that England cricketers get rewarded handsomely for their work. And it kind of begs the question why they need those lucrative IPL and Big Bash deals on top? Yes it’s a short career. And yes it’s only fair that players should be able to maximise their earnings. However, I imagine most people would be perfectly happy with a seven figure salary without having to top up their wages.
It’s certainly food for thought. With the exception of India and Australia most national boards can only dream of paying their cricketers this much money. It hardly seems fair. It’s also why England should expect their players to play better than they do. After all, everything off the field is in their favour.
Before I sign off I’d like to draw your attention to a survey being conducted by The Cricketer. It’s a chance to have your say on how the game is being run in this country. And yes, there is a section about the ECB and The Hundred. Feel free to put the boot in where appropriate. Here’s a link.