Community cricket will take another blow as part of Queensland Cricket’s decision to follow Victoria in making severe cuts to the state association, as around half of 32 full-time positions made redundant are drawn from the areas geared at developing the game’s grassroots beyond the politically powerful Brisbane grade competition.
Queensland’s announcement on Monday arrived as the association continued to haggle with Cricket Australia over a deal to cut its annual distribution by around 25%, with talks understood to have moved to the amount of flexibility contained within the agreement should revenue from the 2020-21 season not be as badly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic as first feared.
These talks, and the strong likelihood of an India tour of Australia next summer alongside the Big Bash League, have left the timing of the cuts open to question, though they are not quite as deep as those announced by Cricket Victoria. There is one pointed parallel with Victoria however: Queensland is understood to have informed Brisbane grade clubs that their grants from the state association will not be affected this year, even as cutbacks are made elsewhere, notably to community cricket staff and also the structure and size of the Brisbane Heat’s backroom.
In its most recent annual report, Queensland Cricket declared reserves of about A$7.6 million among total assets worth A$18.3 million. Cricket Victoria, by contrast, declared reserves of A$25.4 million among total assets valued at A$78.7 million.
Should Queensland agree to reduced annual funding, New South Wales would be left as the only state not to have put pen to paper with CA to accept cuts to annual distributions. So far, a total of 135 jobs have been lost among the states, comprising South Australia (23), Tasmania (20), Victoria (60) and now Queensland (32).
Of these, South Australia’s arrived first due to the association’s direct link to the delayed start to the winter football season through its shared management of Adelaide Oval. However, the rest have all followed CA’s signals of deep financial trouble for the game when the chief executive Kevin Roberts claimed his organisation would be broke by August without immediate cost-cutting – a contention that has subsequently proven considerably more alarmist than realist.
“Like all sporting codes and organisations, Queensland Cricket has felt the significant impacts of Covid-19. While we continue to have constructive negotiations with Cricket Australia around cuts to state association funding, we realise we need to act now in the interest of the financial health of cricket in Queensland,” Queensland’s chief executive Terry Svenson said. “This has been an extremely challenging time and our thoughts are foremost with our employees who have no doubt been living with a high level of uncertainty and anxiety.
“Our presence in community cricket and regional Queensland remains strong, and in some cases, we have offered employees the opportunity to take on cross-role responsibilities in talent identification, coaching and club support. Cricket is still focused on promoting our sport to women and girls and we remain well-resourced in the areas of female talent specialists and high performance. As part of our new structure, QC will contract a head selector for female cricket for the first time.”
CA had previously stood down some 200 staff on drastically reduced pay, while executives and a skeleton staff remained on board on 80% of their usual salaries. A sizeable round of redundancies at CA itself is expected to be only a matter of weeks away, even as forecasts of the effect of Covid-19 continue to be revised to more optimistic levels. Monday saw reports that this year’s AFL Grand Final can be expected to be watched by as many as 30,000 spectators at the MCG.
That news was not reflected in Svenson’s explanation for the decision, as he leaned heavily on the idea that the 2020-21 season would be likely to play out without any revenue derived from spectators. While revenue from tickets and corporate sales for international matches are collected by CA before forming a portion of state distributions, money from Big Bash League attendances and corporate boxes flow directly into the coffers of the state associations.
The Brisbane Heat have drawn consistently strong crowds to the Gabba despite fluctuating results, averaging around 25,000 to rank behind only the Adelaide Strikers and Melbourne Stars for attendance.
“As it currently stands, uncertainty remains as to whether we can have crowds at cricket matches this summer,” Svenson said. “While parts of our operating model will change, our aim is for this to be a seamless transition for participants, volunteers, partners, clubs and fans. We know cricket is being faced with challenges, however our resolve to unite and inspire Queensland communities through cricket has not wavered.”