Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Contracts hurdle for Australia's IPL players

Adam Gilchrist: still contracted to Australia, even in retirement...

The participation of Australia's star cricketers in the forthcoming Indian Premier League could be in doubt, after Cricket Australia warned that it could still exercise the power of veto over its contracted players if competing sponsorship issues arise.

The IPL burst into life last month when Sony Television paid US$1 billion for the ten-year rights to the competition, and 11 contracted Australian cricketers, including the recently retired Adam Gilchrist, have put themselves forward for selection for one of eight city-based franchises.

The players are expected to be auctioned off to the highest bidders in a matter of weeks, although anyone who competes in the IPL will require a non-objection certificate from their home board. CA are understandably keen to maintain contractual control of their greatest assets, and the Federation of International Cricketers Association (FICA) has instructed its players not to negotiate until they see a proper contract.

"There's still a couple of issues," the ACA chief executive, Paul Marsh, told The Australian newspaper. "I'm talking to Tim May [the chief executive of FICA], who is part of this process for our players and all the other international players involved, and whilst it's not there yet, it's not too far away."

Marsh added that Cricket Australia were looking to negotiate a pre-existing agreement clause before giving their go-ahead to the IPL. "Cricket Australia has an issue with players playing for a team that clashes with their sponsors," said Marsh. "I'm not sure where that is all going to go - it's probably the major sticking point that we need to work through."

Another potential spanner in the works is Australia's forthcoming tour of Pakistan, which is scheduled for April, the same month as the IPL. There is a growing suspicion that the tour could be cancelled because of security fears in the wake of the general election, in which case the players would be free to compete, but failing that, the franchises could still be allowed to bid for the Australian players on a long-term contract.

"They are pressing for the players to confirm their involvement by the end of next week," Neil Maxwell, a player agent, told The Australian. "That could be difficult, seeing the Australians haven't seen the long-form agreement, but it could be shortly after that. It is important the franchises know what they are agreeing to over a long period, even if the Australian players are not involved in year one or year two - from a promotional or budgeting sense, they need to know what players are available."