Ashley Giles says that England’s players are “not blind to the reality” of English cricket’s financial situation amid the Covid-19 outbreak, as their representatives continue talks with the ECB over the prospect of pay cuts to their newly announced central contracts for 2020-21.
Despite praising the efforts made by England’s players to “keep the lights on” during a pandemic-blighted summer, Giles warned that the new contracts – a total of 24 across red- and white-ball cricket, plus four incremental deals – would “not be worth the paper they are written on” if a spate of cancellations of future series caused the board to receive no income.
And with this winter’s itineraries, against South Africa in December and Sri Lanka and India in the new year, still awaiting confirmation by their respective boards, Giles urged England’s players to remain flexible and open-minded about the challenges that still lie ahead for the sport, and the impact that may have on their remuneration.
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“We are still in those discussions, and they are really positive discussions,” Giles said of the ECB’s negotiations with the Team England Player Partnership (TEPP). “Although the players have been in a bubble for the majority of this summer, they’re not blind to the reality of what’s going on out in the world.”
England’s players donated a combined sum of £500,000 when the start of the English season was postponed in April, at which point most of the counties chose to furlough their playing staff. And by agreeing to put up with life inside biosecure environments at the Ageas Bowl and Emirates Old Trafford, the Test and white-ball squads helped ensure that all 18 of the men’s scheduled internationals were played to fulfil their broadcast deal with Sky Sports.
Had no international cricket been possible this summer, the ECB’s projected losses of £100 million could have been more than three times worse, and Giles acknowledged that the board’s duty of care to their players was more important than ever as a consequence – in particular the threat of burn-out, which is one key reason why this year’s list of contracts has been expanded by two from last year’s figure of 22.
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“The players have done a huge amount this summer, saving a lot of money for cricket across the board, and in some aspects, keeping the lights on,” Giles said. “But they understand they’ve still got a part to play. We’re getting very close to reaching a conclusion, at which point we will make another statement.
“The players are at that very pointy end of everything we do,” he added. “The county game appreciates that, and this year probably more than any other time. It’s one of the reasons we were looking to diversify our cricketing revenue streams with the Hundred. But right now, in terms of income, what these guys do on the field is paramount, not just us as the ECB, but the whole system, right down to grassroots, women’s cricket, disabilities. They are absolutely crucial.”
The ECB announced a total of 62 redundancies in a major restructuring earlier this month, while Giles and other senior management, including Tom Harrison the chief executive, also took pay cuts at the start of the pandemic. However, Giles insisted that the board was still looking to fill vacancies on the England coaching team – in the batting, bowling and fielding roles – that have been covered by a series of short-term appointments since Chris Silverwood took over as head coach last year.
Darren Gough was one short-term appointment as a fast-bowling consultant on last year’s tour of New Zealand, while Richard Dawson, Glenn Chapple and Chris Read were used during the West Indies series. A visa issue kiboshed the ECB’s hopes of recruiting Jeetan Patel during the Pakistan series outside of his playing commitments with Warwickshire after his stint over the winter, with Graeme Welch, Jonathan Trott and Azhar Mahmood among those stepping in. With enlarged squads of players likely to enter team bubbles for the foreseeable, Giles recognised the need to move on from such short-term arrangements.
“I know we’re making redundancies but these are not additional positions: they are important for us to be able to function,” he said. “When we had two bubbles running, we recruited help from the counties which was fantastic. But that isn’t really sustainable on a 12-month basis, particularly when cricket returns to some normality.
“We want these positions to work up and down the system, not just Team England, but our development teams and the counties as well. This year we showed we could operate with bubbles of 30, so we’ve got a lot of players out there who need attention and servicing.”
“We’ve had to make efficiencies across the business. We have all got to share the load and be leaner. But it won’t hamper Chris, it won’t tie his hands. He’ll get the support he needs to help England be successful.”
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