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A major round of redundancies at Cricket Australia appears only days away as its chief executive Kevin Roberts maintained his insistence on cutbacks even as he outlined details of a home summer schedule that will feature more international fixtures than originally planned amid vastly improving financial forecasts.
Roberts said on Friday that CA was looking at a revenue shortfall of about A$80 million for the home season, an estimation that back in April was believed to be as high as A$230 million in discussions with state associations. Such a rapidly shifting set of forecasts has maintained a strong sense of scepticism among the states and the Australian Cricketers Association about the true state of the game's finances and the cost-cutting prescribed as a result.
While Roberts made it clear that CA did not wish to follow Victoria or Queensland in taking the axe to community cricket programs around the country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, he was blunt in stating that staff reductions at the central governing body were inevitable. A total of 146 employees have so far been made redundant across every state association apart from New South Wales. CA stood down some 200 staff on 20% of their usual salaries until June 30, while executives and remaining staff remained on 80% of their usual pay.
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Those cuts followed CA's initial advice to the states that their annual distributions would have to be reduced by as much as 40% over two years, a figure subsequently argued down to 25% with in-built flexibility should revenue shortfall not be as significant as previously forecast. Even so, NSW and Queensland are still to agree to new funding deals, while Western Australia's agreement with CA will not take effect unless they do.
"We are focused on delivering the best season possible noting that the likelihood of significant crowds is very slim," Roberts said. "Ordinarily that'll deliver well over A$50 million revenue to CA. The T20 World Cup is a big question and that's a factor of A$20 million. And you mentioned biosecurity plans, it's likely that our biosecurity measures that we need to put into place to deliver our season will cost in the order of A$10 million.
"We've made a commitment to significantly reduce the cost base of Cricket Australia. Unfortunately, that means that no area of the organisation will be untouched. It's premature to talk about the details of those plans. That will come in the not too distant future. We are really focused on the activities that will drive positive cash flow for Australian cricket given the importance of CA generating revenue to support states and territories.
"Once we've generated that revenue from the commercial activities, our highest priority in terms of where that revenue is invested in community cricket. So we are looking to minimising the reductions in community cricket. It's fair to say there will be reductions right across Cricket Australia and that's unavoidable given the need to reduce to the extent that we are."
Both the states and the ACA have complained that CA has been tardy or incomplete in providing financial information, something Roberts tried to justify while still talking about the governing body's state association owners and player partners as though they were outsiders to the game's decision-making.
"What's been reported is there's unanswered questions. I guess what hasn't been reported thus far is there's been many workshops, exchanges of information packs, documents, emails, discussions, video meetings that have occurred," Roberts said. "Many, many, questions answered. It is true there's a couple of unanswered questions and it's also true there's a couple of questions that can't be answered out of respect for the organisations involved.
"So as an example we've still got over A$10 million in overdue debtors right now, but it wouldn't be appropriate out of respect for those organisations that owe CA money for us to be talking about that publicly in reference to those organisations. We've certainly answered just about every question that's come out way, there's a couple that remain to be answered and we're in the process of doing so, and there's some that are of a more confidential nature."
Australia's international schedule for next summer is actually going to provide more content for broadcasters than initially scheduled, with a limited overs tour by New Zealand in late January and early February replacing the equivalent matches that were cancelled this March due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. These matches would appear to now clash with the likely climax of the Big Bash League, which has been a source of much discussion around the desire of the broadcasters Fox Sports and Seven to give it greater prominence and better players.
"We've got some exciting innovation that we'll be announcing in due course around the BBL for next season. That runs from the start of the tournament to the finals series," Roberts said. "Certainly, we're focused on elevating the BBL series. We've also got a really fortunate situation, as do New Zealand, in that if things continue as they are the prospect of cricket being played in our nations is stronger than many other countries.
"Speaking with David White, as recently as this week, we've expressed our commitment to work on various plans with NZ for the season ahead. We need to be flexible in that regard too because we can't know exactly how this will play out. We're very confident if the schedule does play out as announced we'll see a great NZ series and a fantastic BBL finals series as well."
Less promising are the prospects for scheduled matches in the north of Australia in August and October, including a series against Zimbabwe that looks almost certain to be postponed. "We take seriously our responsibility to get the game to the people all around Australia and we're really excited about the possibility of going north to Townsville and up to the [Northern] Territory as well," Roberts said.
"Obviously there's a high degree of uncertainty around the prospect of that happening, and there's an even higher degree of uncertainty around the prospect of having fans at the matches, but regardless no doubt the local communities up north will be excited to welcome the teams to battle each other on the field up north, regardless of whether there can be fans at the match. We really hope those series can occur as planned. If they can't then there's the opportunity to postpone them and still ensure that we can take cricket to the likes of Townsville and Darwin."