PCA chief executive Tony Irish has stressed the need for collective decision-making as cricketers in England and Wales face pay cuts and the prospect of being furloughed as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to drastically curtail the 2020 season.
The ECB have been involved in regular meetings with stakeholders – broadcasters, clubs and players – since it became apparent that the domestic season would be unable to start on time, and gave guidance to counties last week advising them on furloughing their employees under the UK government’s job retention scheme.
The scheme allows employers to place their staff on temporary leaves of absence, during which time the government will pay the lower of £2,500 a month or 80% of their salary. Glamorgan and Yorkshire have already furloughed the majority of their non-playing staff, and other counties are likely to follow suit.
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Later this week, the ECB will put a series of proposals to the PCA (the players’ trade union) and to counties, most likely as part of their emergency financial package. Some clubs are likely to take advantage of the government’s scheme, which would enable significant savings at a time when revenue has fallen “off a cliff”, as Lancashire chief executive Daniel Gidney has put it.
“We are aware that COVID-19 is having a very significant impact on cricket and that solutions need to be found for the challenges that we all face,” Irish said. “It’s an unprecedented time filled with uncertainty and naturally that brings lots of speculation. Much of that currently is around furloughing of players and wage cuts for players.
“We believe that solutions should be sought, and where possible agreed, collectively. We understand that recommendations or proposals will be put to us during this week.
“We will work through those with the players and then with the ECB and the first-class counties with a view to seeking agreed solutions.”
While it has been suggested that England’s centrally-contracted players, some of whom earn an annual salary of around £1million, might have their pay cut to help ensure that the game can survive the crisis, the PA news agency reported on Sunday that the terms of their contracts mean any such move would have to be a voluntary one.
As things stand, the season is due to start on May 28 with the opening fixtures in the T20 Blast, but it is highly unlikely that will be possible, with Michael Gove, the government minister, saying at a press conference on Sunday that the UK should prepare for a “significant period” of lockdown and that things “will get worse” before they get better.
It is hoped that an abbreviated season will still be possible, with the T20 Blast and the Hundred set to be prioritised as the most lucrative competitions.
While several smaller counties have been heavily reliant on grants from the ECB in recent years, both Northamptonshire and Derbyshire posted strong financial results for 2019, and Durham chief executive Tim Bostock has suggested that it is the larger counties – those which have diversified income streams – that will suffer most from the crisis, with hotel and conference room bookings cancelled en masse.
“They’ve got businesses that rely on income outside of ECB regular monthly funding – particularly I can think of Lancashire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire, the Ageas Bowl,” Bostock told talkSPORT.
“They’ve done the right thing, they’ve diversified so that they can survive without ECB income, but what that has meant is… that has fallen off the edge of a cliff through no fault of their own. That is a major challenge. A club like Durham – a larger percentage of our income comes from the guaranteed ECB income as a result of the new television deal, and therefore we are much less exposed.”
The ECB is also keen to ensure that club cricket is able to survive the crisis, with all recreational cricket and age-group programmes All Stars and Dynamos currently suspended indefinitely. On Friday, the governing body informed clubs that repayments on the scheme that allows clubs to take out interest-free loans to complete development work have been suspended until May 2021.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo