ACA forms IP business amid Cricket Australia dispute

The Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) has established a body to manage and commercialise the intellectual property of players amid ongoing uncertainty over a new Memorandum of Understanding being agreed between players and Cricket Australia (CA).

The ACA, which represents professional players in Australia, last month turned down the latest pay offer from CA, accusing the sport’s national governing body of trying to “short change” grassroots investment.

Should a compromise on a new MoU not be reached by June 30, players risk not being paid by CA and strike action being taken.

In a move designed to manage the uncertainty of players’ IP rights, the ACA has established The Cricketers’ Brand, which will manage and market Australia’s male and female cricketers’ rights.

The ACA said the new business would go live on July 1, although the body is finalising securing the interim IP of elite cricketers pending a new MoU being agreed.

Players’ IP rights include the use of their name, voice, signature, trademark, image, likeness or performance, as well as interviews, appearances, promotions or sponsorships.

The Cricketers’ Brand will work with agents to explore sponsorship and endorsement deals for players. From July 1, the business will act as a go-between for commercial parties that wish to use a player’s IP. The Cricketers’ Brand will also deal with broadcasters and newspapers seeking player interviews.

CA will meet ongoing commercial obligations to its sponsors and broadcasters if they want to use the players and have existing multi-year deals that extend beyond June 30. The Cricketers’ Brand will seek to work with CA to ensure a smooth transitional period, and it is hoped the two parties will forge a strong relationship going forward.

The new business will also act as a facilitator for CA to use the players’ IP on its website or other digital products, and in games or apps.

The ACA also pointed to the “concerning situation” whereby it claims male cricketers have been allocated around zero per cent of the digital media revenue received by Cricket Australia – a figure the ACA claims is approximately A$40m (€26.7m/$29.9m) over five years. The ACA said it was trying to get to the bottom of the matter but added that players could not allow it to continue.

Former cricketer Tim Cruickshank, current ACA commercial manager, will serve as general manager of The Cricketers’ Brand.

Cruickshank (left of picture) said: “The Cricketers' Brand has been born of necessity but our analysis reveals it creates great opportunities for the players. Across all categories, whether in-game access by broadcasters, sponsors, licensed products, appearances or merchandising, the players have been pivotal to the growth in the revenue in Australian cricket; both on and off the field.

“This is about securing a fair share for the men and women who play the game by taking greater control of their own intellectual property. The ACA has identified that the players themselves deserve to help share in, and grow this further.

“It also means players can lend their IP to grass roots development at local and club level. This is important to the players who are disappointed that grassroots cricket currently only receiving 12 per cent of the revenue entering the game. This is clearly unsatisfactory.”

He added: “It should be an exciting period ahead in the game both at international and domestic level, in both men’s and women’s cricket. Big Bash, World Cup and bilateral series that will be watched by millions worldwide and the opportunity for the players to grow their personal brand alongside the brand of cricket is exciting for the players to be a part of.

“We will be working with both the players and their agents to help set up a commercial framework that best suits the future direction of revenue streams.

“What this means practically for broadcasters and sponsors is that they can seek to establish a more direct relationship with the players through The Cricketers’ Brand which we hope will enhance those partnerships for further mutual benefit.”