Cricket-Australia board cuts 40 staff in restructure

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Cricket Australia will cut 40 staff and slash executive pay as part of a restructuring effort to shore up finances hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the board said on Wednesday. The cost-cutting measures, which also include the suspension of international tours for lower-tier and junior teams, will save the board up to A$40 million a year and “partly mitigate” the impact of COVID-19 on revenue, CA said in a statement. “We recognise that this is a difficult time for Cricket Australia employees, particularly for those staff members affected by these redundancies and their families,” Chairman Earl Eddings said. “However, our responsibility is clear: to navigate a path for cricket through this period of uncertainty and disruption to ensure we come out the other side sustainable in the short term and prosperous in the long term.” The restructuring details come a day after the board announced Kevin Roberts had resigned as chief executive with immediate effect, after months of criticism over his handling of the virus shutdown. CA had already furloughed about 80% of its workforce in April and cut executive pay to “proactively” manage the impact of COVID-19.

Cricket-England’s Bairstow keen to reclaim test wicketkeeper’s role

LONDON (Reuters) – Jonny Bairstow says he wants to return to the England test squad for next month’s home series against West Indies as the designated wicketkeeper, not a specialist batsman. Jos Buttler has been the preferred test stumper recently while Ben Foakes is considered technically best of the three. Bairstow was dropped for the tour of New Zealand in November and played only one test in South Africa as a specialist batsman. “I was disappointed to lose the gloves at the time,” Bairstow told British media. “My stats were very good and I didn’t feel like I had done anything wrong with my keeping. I was getting complimented highly by people on that.” The 30-year-old, who was named in England’s 55-man training group for the three-test series against West Indies, said he had used the time during the coronavirus shutdown to work on his batting technique. “I’m pleased with the way my batting has been going,” Bairstow said. “There have always been challenges that have been asked — whether keeping wicket or batting in certain positions — and I’d like to think I’ve risen to those challenges.”

ANALYSIS-Cricket-COVID missteps topple Sandpaper-gate survivor Roberts

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Friends in high places may have enabled Kevin Roberts’ surprise ascent to the top job at Cricket Australia in the wake of the 2018 ball-tampering scandal, but he had few allies left when the knives came out during the coronavirus crisis. Cricket Australia (CA) announced Roberts’ resignation with immediate effect on Tuesday, following months of criticism over his stewardship during the COVID-19 shutdown. The decision was cast as mutual by chairman Earl Eddings, who gave Roberts credit for delivering a successful Women’s Twenty20 World Cup and overseeing the renaissance of the men’s team following the humiliations of ‘Sandpaper-gate’. But Roberts leaves Australian cricket in a state of some disarray, with laid-off staff embittered, players rebelling against the threat of pay cuts, and genuine confusion over the state of the game’s finances. Having enjoyed a mostly charmed tenure since succeeding James Sutherland in October 2018, Roberts’ support unravelled in two heady months as COVID-19 struck, threatening up to A$400 million ($280 million) in CA revenue. Roberts responded by furloughing 80% of CA’s staff in April and slashing the pay of those who remained, calling it a “proactive” measure to counter the impact of the virus. The abrupt and unpopular measures were announced with Churchillian gravitas, yet the touted savings of A$3 million seemed scant justification for the upheaval of people’s livelihoods, particularly when set against the A$90 million CA held in reserves at the end of March. It was the first of a number of communication missteps by Roberts. His warnings of doomsday scenarios grew progressively unconvincing as Australia’s COVID-19 infections dwindled and while rival domestic sports rolled up their sleeves to restart their competitions. A scathing critique of CA’s cost-cutting in May from the chairman of the players’ union raised echoes of the acrimony of 2017, when Roberts was the lead negotiator in pay talks with players. CA’s insistence then on ending a long-standing revenue-sharing model proved a colossal miscalculation, and players ended up refusing to deal with Roberts. It was therefore something of a surprise when he was unveiled as CEO in October 2018 following a supposedly worldwide search to replace the long-serving and highly respected James Sutherland. Roberts’ appointment was endorsed by departed chairman David Peever and rubber-stamped at an annual general meeting as the board sat on a scathing independent review of Australian cricket’s culture and governance. Once the report was released to the public, Peever was forced out along with a slew of senior staffers. But Roberts, the board’s former executive manager of Strategy, People and Culture, managed to hang on to his job. With Peever’s support, he had beaten out state association bosses seen as rival candidates for the CEO role. Eighteen months on, there was little good will left for Roberts to tap from the states, however, some of which balked at accepting swingeing cuts to their grants from CA. Among them, Western Australia boss Christina Matthews was enraged after Roberts announced the summer schedule in late May, confirming that her state had missed out on hosting a test in the lucrative India series. Compared with Sutherland’s 17-year tenure, Roberts’ 18-month stint as CEO may be remembered as a brief and awkward chapter in the annals of Australian cricket, bookended by the twin crises of culture and coronavirus. While his departure severs another of the board’s links to the dark days of ‘Sandpaper-gate’, his interim successor Nick Hockley inherits a portfolio of problems and a tough to-do list, starting with the announcement of a restructuring and redundancies on Wednesday. ($1 = 1.4447 Australian dollars)

Cricket-Pakistan’s Hafeez to delay retirement if T20 World Cup postponed

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistan all-rounder Mohammed Hafeez says he will delay his retirement if this year’s Twenty20 World Cup is postponed because of the coronavirus crisis. The 39-year-old former captain planned to end his 17-year international career after the World Cup in November but with hosts Australia labelling the tournament’s schedule as “very high risk” Hafeez is now ready to play on. “I gave retiring from T20 cricket after the World Cup a lot of thought,” Hafeez said in a video conference. “I want to retire from T20 cricket after playing a big tournament in which I perform well, and hopefully go out on a winning note. “This is my plan, and if the World T20 is postponed to November or some later time, that doesn’t mean I won’t play it.” Hafeez quit tests in late 2018 but remained active in limited-overs cricket and played the 50-overs World Cup in England last year. He was recalled to the Twenty20 squad for the home series against Bangladesh in January and has also been picked for Pakistan’s tour of England in August-September. While there have been growing calls for Hafeez to call time on his career, he said he was still good enough for international cricket. “I’m not going to quit cricket because someone asks me to, just like I never started playing at someone else’s behest,” he said. “I’ve spent the last 17 years justifying my selection, and I hope I’ll justify my selection again this time. All I’d like to say is – my career, my choice.”

UPDATE 2-Cricket-CA chief Roberts resigns amid leadership criticism

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts has resigned after months of criticism over his handling of the coronavirus shutdown, having alienated players and state associations over cost-cutting measures. CA chairman Earl Eddings confirmed on Tuesday that Roberts had been replaced by interim CEO Nick Hockley, the chief executive of the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia, and the board would begin the search for a long-term replacement. While Eddings cast Roberts’ departure as a mutual decision, he also said CA wanted a “new leadership style” and the permanent successor would need strong communication skills. “Kevin and I and the board have worked out over the last three-four months that things do need to change,” Eddings told reporters in a video call. “Kevin tendered his resignation and we agreed. Now we move on.” Roberts, who succeeded James Sutherland in October 2018 and had 18 months left on his contract, becomes the third CEO of a major Australian sport to depart following National Rugby League boss Todd Greenberg and Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle. Prior to taking the top job at CA, Roberts played a leading role in the board’s unsuccessful attempt to get players to abandon a long-held revenue-sharing agreement in 2017. Since then he has often spoke of restoring harmony to player relations but things unravelled after CA’s shock decision to furlough 80% of staff in April, citing the need to “proactively” manage the financial impact of COVID-19. State associations pushed back against proposals to cut their grants while players rejected forward estimates of revenue which underpins their pay two weeks ago. With coronavirus infections dwindling in Australia, and India having all but confirmed their tour in the home summer — which stands to be CA’s biggest revenue earner in years — Roberts’ doomsday warnings began to look premature. However, Eddings said domestic cricket was “not out of the woods” and that hosting the 16-team Twenty20 World Cup in October as scheduled was “unrealistic” due to travel restrictions. He also confirmed CA would announce redundancies as part of a restructure on Wednesday. “We will still need to reshape the cost base for Australian cricket to be able to prepare us for the future,” he said.

UPDATE 1-Cricket-CA chief Roberts resigns amid leadership criticism

* Roberts resigns after criticism of leadership during shutdown * T20 World Cup chief Hockley named interim CEO (Updates after Roberts departure, adds details, quotes, byline) By Ian Ransom MELBOURNE, June 16 (Reuters) – Cricket Australia (CA) confirmed on Tuesday that chief executive Kevin Roberts has resigned following months of criticism over his leadership during the coronavirus shutdown. CA Chairman Earl Eddings told reporters in a video call that Roberts, whose resignation is effective immediately, would be replaced by interim CEO Nick Hockley, the chief executive of the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia. Eddings informed CA staff of the decision earlier in the day, saying the board needed a “circuit-breaker” to move on from the disruptions that have engulfed the organisation over the past few months. “Kevin agrees now is the right time for a change of leadership,” Eddings told reporters. Roberts had been under fire since a shock decision to furlough about 80% of staff at head office in April and a warning that the game was in financial peril. He said the cuts were to “proactively” manage the impact of COVID-19 despite the shutdown coming at the end of the season and exerting minimal impact on scheduling. Roberts attempted to push through further cost-cutting programs but state associations that nominate members to CA’s executive board pushed back against the governing body’s proposed reductions to grants. Players were also upset by proposals to reduce domestic scheduling and were sceptical about CA’s bleak forward estimates of revenue projections that underpin their pay. CA’s decision to snub Perth as a venue for one of the four test matches in the lucrative India tour in the home summer also angered Western Australia’s state association. Roberts said earlier this month the domestic game stood to lose A$80 million ($54.55 million) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with fans barred from stadiums and the Twenty20 World Cup to be held in Australia in October likely to be postponed. However, with India’s tour for December all but confirmed and spectators expected to return to stadiums from next month as COVID-19 infections dwindle, some media pundits have said Roberts exaggerated the financial strain.

Cricket-CA chairman calls media conference, expected to confirm Roberts sacking

MELBOURNE, June 16 (Reuters) – Cricket Australia chairman Earl Eddings has called a media conference at midday (0200 GMT) on Tuesday where he is expected to confirm that Chief Executive Kevin Roberts has been axed. Australian media reported that the board held an extraordinary meeting late on Monday after losing confidence in Roberts’ leadership during the coronavirus shutdown. Eddings is expected to announce an interim CEO to replace Roberts, who has been in charge since succeeding long-serving CEO James Sutherland in October 2018. Roberts has been under fire since furloughing nearly 80% of staff at head office in April and declaring that the game faced a major financial crisis due to COVID-19. State associations that nominate members to CA’s executive board have pushed back against the governing body’s proposed cuts to grants and the players union rejected its bleak forward estimates of revenue projections that underpin players’ pay.

Cricket-Australia board chief Roberts to be axed – reports

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Cricket Australia (CA) Chief Executive Kevin Roberts is set to be replaced by an interim CEO after losing support of the board over his stewardship of the game during the coronavirus shutdown, local media reported on Monday. Members of the board held an emergency meeting on Sunday to put handover arrangements in place for a replacement, The Australian newspaper said. The reports did not give details about the interim CEO, while CA did not immediately comment when contacted by Reuters. Roberts has been criticised for his handling of the shutdown since a decision to furlough about 80% of staff at head office in April to “proactively” manage the impact of COVID-19. State associations that nominate members to the CA board have pushed back against proposed cuts to their grants, while the players’ union has called for dispute resolution with the governing body after rejecting its forward estimates for the revenue that underpins player payments. [nL4N2DH1XO] CA’s decision to snub Perth as a venue for one of the four test matches in the lucrative India tour in the home summer also angered Western Australia’s state association. [nL4N2DA1QX] Roberts said earlier this month the domestic game stood to lose A$80 million ($54.55 million) due to COVID-19, with fans barred from stadiums and the Twenty20 World Cup to be held in Australia in October likely to be postponed. [nL4N2DB1JI] But with the India tour for December all but confirmed and spectators expected to return to stadiums from next month as COVID-19 infections dwindle, media pundits have accused Roberts of concocting a financial disaster. “The good news for cricket has put further pressure on Roberts with states and players emboldened about their claims the game is not facing a financial crisis,” The Australian said. Roberts would become the third CEO of a major Australian sport to lose their job during the coronavirus outbreak, with National Rugby League boss Todd Greenberg and Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle stepping down in recent months. ($1 = 1.4665 Australian dollars)