Cricket Australia guards cash and venues ahead of coronavirus winter
Strategic cash reserves and standing agreements to take control of the nation’s biggest sporting venues for next summer’s T20 World Cup will be tightly held by Cricket Australia ahead of an off-season that is set to see winter sports ravaged by efforts to fight the global spread of coronavirus.
In announcing that CA had chosen to cancel the Sheffield Shield final and award the title to the table-topping New South Wales side, while also recommending the cessation of all community cricket and instructing staff to work from home until at least April 13, the chief executive Kevin Roberts said that the governing body had moved towards playing out various scenarios. These include the prospect of long-term sporting shutdowns, perhaps even stretching into next season’s visit by India.
“We’re working through scenario plans around that now,” Roberts said of longer-term shutdowns. “We’re in uncertain times, and it’s difficult to project precisely what will transpire over the next number of months. But we will be working through with advice from experts, externally as to what are the various scenarios that are plausible, how likely are they, and how would we plan to deal with each of them.
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“We’re moving now from management of the onset of coronavirus as a critical incident, to how do we guarantee the continuity of our business and our organisation beyond that – moving from the reactive to the more proactive, and forming a team of business continuity experts that work through all of that over the coming months. We really empathise with the situation for winter sports, we are more fortunate with the timing of this.
“Given the circumstances it’s hard to believe it was just a week ago that some of the greatest female cricketers in the world inspired men, women, boys and girls in amazing spectacle next door at the MCG. So we want to try and take the time to reflect proudly on that and make sure the ongoing impact of that great event, and the springboard it represents for women and girls’ sport, is maximised. We did get lucky there, no doubt, and we’ll do what we can to support our colleagues in other sports through the winter, who are going to be harder hit by this.”
At the same time, Roberts indicated that any collaborative efforts with the likes of the Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL), as seen in recent efforts to help rural communities recover from the summer’s horrific bushfire season, would have their limits. In particular, Roberts ruled out any discussion of pooling cash funds held by Australia’s major sports for contingency funding, with a vast difference in some cases as to how capable they are of coping without regular fixtures over the coming weeks and months.
The NRL is in particularly grim territory, having liquidated its own A$54 million “future fund” in 2016 to deal with short-term cashflow issues and to fund the building of its digital arm, and with its chairman Peter V’Landys actively calling for government assistance. The AFL – thought to have reserves in the region of A$65 million – is somewhat better off, but facing the likelihood of hard times for the league and all clubs after announcing the pre-emptive reduction of the season to 17 regular rounds with an uncertain start date.
“The discussions at an industry level for sport, what we have in common is that engagement with communities and the way that sport can bring communities together and inspire them like very few other things in life,” Roberts said. “The financial circumstances of each sport are matters for each sport, in saying that we’ll support the winter sports wherever we can, but I wouldn’t envisage that extends to a common financial pool if you like, given that he circumstances of each sport financially are their business.”
As for the AFL floating the possibility of extending its season into December this year in the event of a heavily delayed start, Roberts said that CA and the ICC would be holding the likes of state governments and venue operators to their contracts to host the men’s T20 World Cup in October and November, culminating in the MCG final on November 15.
“At a bigger picture level, we’re really hoping all forms of sport can be played again in a few weeks’ or a few months’ time,” Roberts said. “None of us are experts in this situation obviously, so our hope is we’re back in very much normal circumstances come October-November when the men’s T20 World Cup is to be played, and at this stage, we’re planning on November 15 to have a full house next door here at the MCG to inspire the world through men’s cricket, as the women’s cricketers did here just last week.”
“Certainly we would intend to work collaboratively and support the AFL and other winter sports codes through this period. We do have it a little bit easier at this stage, given the timing of our season. At the same time, there’s a World Cup planned, we’ve got agreements in place and our assumption is that they go ahead as planned, but all sports can be expecting support from us in the meantime.”
While the Australian Cricketers Association has already declared its intent to oppose any health-related restrictions on its players travelling to India for the IPL should it go ahead from April 15, Roberts said that discussions of overseas travel and other future assignments, including the national team’s tours of Bangladesh and England in June and July, needed to take place as and when government and health advice was up-to-date.
“We’re conscious that Australian players are individually contracted to the IPL and the time will certainly come very soon when players will be really interested and leaning on our perspective as their leader, if you like, to advise them in that regard,” Roberts said. “Then there’ll also be a perspective from the BCCI and their IPL division. Together with the BCCI and with our players, I’m sure players will reach the best possible decisions in uncertain circumstances.
“There’s absolutely a bigger picture here and the health of the community, and not just in Australia either, worldwide. So we’re working closely with NZC, CSA, because of the cancellation of recent tours, we discussed the BCCI, so there’s an international lens as well, and we’re doing our best to cross-collaborate across other sports in Australia and also other ICC members worldwide.”