Feel desperately for our people who have been stood down during this period: Kevin Roberts

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21 Apr 2020 | 06:31 PM
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Cricket.com staff

Feel desperately for our people who have been stood down during this period: Kevin Roberts

The CEO of Cricket Australia also spoke on a variety of topics. Here's part 2 of the interview

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You spoke about your relationship with BCCI, so at this point, how committed are they to continue with the Test series, considering they have concerns over their own obligations to the broadcasters regarding the IPL and if the IPL were to be held later in the year, it crashes with your home season. With all these paycuts, can you assure that your players don't go into business for themselves?

The IPL obviously matters for the BCCI, we’re disappointed for the BCCI and for our players that they weren’t able to stage that competition and play in it, as we speak, there's people around the world who would love to be watching the IPL right now, but that’s a matter for the BCCI. What we’re working on is our partnership with the BCCI, whether that be about the pursuit of 5-Test series in the future or whether it be about finding the most creative ways to ensure that, together we can deliver a Test series between Australia and India that inspires the cricket world through the next summer. That’s our focus and so we are planning on doing everything possible to make that happen. We wish the BCCI all the best in being able to stage the IPL at some point in time.

Given the events in the past week, whether people in the game, has the confidence been lost in your ability to lead the game, do you still believe that you have the full support of the board in your role?

Yes, we’re together working through challenging times that no one’s faced in society before, let alone in cricket. The challenging times we’re working through, we’re doing it collaboratively, none of us get things perfect every step of the way because we’re just as human as everyone else, but we’re doing it with real respect for the communities that we lead and serve and we’re navigating a way through this. Humanity has got through situations more dire than this before and will do so again. Cricket has got through situations more dire than this before and will do so again. We’re all committed to playing our effective leadership roles and our directors who are going above and beyond the call in helping steer away through this or whether it’s the executive team, I am asking more of them now than I have ever asked of them before in this situation or the role I'll play. If it's needed working 14-16 hours a day, seven days a week to chart a path through this, that’s what I'll be doing and that’s what we will be doing.

There is plenty of cricket lovers who might not have a deep technical understanding of books and balance sheets in relation to this, what do these developments mean for them or for fans or club and community cricket for example, being told to brace for significant impact as a result of CA’s financial status?

There’s no doubt that this situation hits all sports and more broadly all communities all organisations across the society in Australia and beyond. There’s no doubt that aspects of community sport are likely to change into the future, one of the things that we are acknowledging will be the increase in importance of digital platforms, just like the one we’re using now for the virtual press conference. But the importance of evolving the likes of the modern cricket platform to make sure that we can provide the best possible digital platforms, to enable and support volunteers across the communities that they lead and the communities that we serve. 

So what it’ll do is sharpen our focus on the things like digital platforms to support those communities, it’ll also ensure that what ever cuts needs to be made in cricket going forward that will be absolutely prioritising an ongoing investment in community cricket. We ramp that investment that investment up in recent years, we started to see that investment paid through this year with a meaningful increase in the number of registered players coming through and we intend to support community cricket through the states and territories as much as we possibly can in the new environment and really prioritise their investment in the communities, clubs that are hearts and souls of the communities around the country.

Your own organisation with 500 million dollars of revenue, I understand that’s tough here, but you could go to a bank and get them to borrow money. In retrospect do you think it was an over-reaction to send home all of your staff with 20% of their salaries and did you raise with them the prospect of them assessing job security?

I don’t think it was an over-reaction and we’re paying people the greater of 20% of their salary or if the job keeper allowances is more than 20% of their salary, then we’re paying them that and it wasn’t an over-reaction because we’re dealing with a situation that is hitting us, unfortunately at the low point of our cash cycle over 4 years. We've reached a point, in early September if there is more shocks as we had over the last month or more, then our reserves were very thin and in fact, effectively would chart a path to zero if we weren't to take drastic action. 

Then you layer on top of that, the possibility that the international season doesn’t go ahead and that’s an issue of 100s of millions of dollars. Our timing is a little bit different in our season relative to the football codes. We’ve seen it across football codes, they have done four things, one is to secure death facilities, one is to reduce their own costs as leagues, the next is to reduce their funding of clubs and the next is to negotiate sensible resetting of player payments for the season. There’s no surprise that we see that blue print rolling across all sports and the way of pursuing that as well and if we weren’t doing that, we would be managing this situation by managing by looking in a rear-vision mirror and that’s not we are charged to do. We’re charged to manage the situation we have been presented with and that we have seen in the future, which is why we’re looking forward and taking those actions as we are required to.

About your staff, was there any other way that the wage field could have been cut, obviously an 80% cut means very different things to different people, given what their total wage might be in terms of paying their rent or whatever it is?

I feel desperately for our people who have been stood down through this period and emphasise that to them on our live stream an hour ago and the pain that our people are enduring who have been stood down, from next week onwards, is part of the motivation for us to navigate this situation as best we can. We didn’t start with the stand-downs, what we started with was an acknowledgement that most activities in cricket needed to pause as a result of emerging situations and when you pause those activities, you have a lot of people who were previously working on those activities who aren’t required who aren’t required to work on them anymore, that’s an unfortunate reality of this situation. 

It’s one of the many levers that we have pulled, we’re approaching 20-odd million dollars now in savings that we have generated to help fight this situation, that's about 3 million dollars that relates to the stand-downs. So that’s significant for all of our people, I feel desperately for each and everyone of them and I hate the fact that we had to move to that after all of the fantastic progress we have made as an organisation and our culture and the outstanding people that we’re so grateful to work with. I hate doing that, but it's necessary as about 3 million dollars, around 20 million dollars that have been stripped out of our costs already and a whole lot more that we’re going to need to look at in the future. Unfortunately it was an unavoidable piece of the puzzle.

With regards to the Indian series, you pointed out such an important one in terms of the TV revenue, are you planning to maximise the chance of playing using a hub model, for example, you might utilise one city and one venue such as the Adelaide Oval or are you planning that you could travel across the states as usual?

At this point we won’t roll anything out in terms of the Indian series. Along with the BCCI and the Indian players and support staff, we are willing to stage a series that inspires the cricket world, whether or not there is people at the venue or not, sitting in the stands, and so will explore all available options, many of which wouldn’t have been contemplated until now, but, we are in a different world where all of a sudden, where we’re being grateful for the things we do have rather than lamenting the things we don’t and we need to face into all possibilities. 

Fortunately, we have a little bit of time to work through the different scenarios for the India series, but we are not rolling out any possibility for that at this point of time. It’s all about inspiring cricket fans around the world with a great series and making sure that we can do so in a way that respects and manages the health and well being of everyone, of our players, to India players, to the support staff and the fans, to the extent that fans are able to attend those matches.

Just a concern, will the players will be asked to take preemptive additional paycuts on top of what they take in terms of share revenue?

We’re working through the detail of player payments with the ACA and obviously respecting our obligations to keep our senior players informed as well and so that’s a matter for us to keep discussing it with the ACA and the players, but, what we’ve all seen and heard in terms of the leaders of Australian teams who are such high quality young Australians, they’re acknowledging that everyone has a role to play here in helping fight this situation including the players in the Australian national teams; male and female. We just respect their commitment so much, we respect their desired help so much and therefore will be respecting them in a way that we have moved through this situation together with the ACA and agree some brave solutions to deal with this unprecedented situation.

In terms of how this has been received by the states, players and staff, there seems to have been a fair bit of shock and confusion and sort of scepticism about certain things. Could things have been communicated better or is there a need to be more transparent in explaining how this situation has been arrived at?

We’ve had very frequent communication, not just one way, but, Q & A sessions and with digital platforms these days the opportunity for people to lock their questions online and for those to be addressed in live streams, we’ve been addressing our people three times a week for at least a month. We have had state territory CEOs on calls about three times a week, over that same period we have had state and territory chairs on video meetings once a week over the last month or so. In addition to those group sessions, we have had lot of individual sessions working with our teams in the organisation, individual discussions with state territory CEOs, chairs and our board to their great credit have rolled their sleeves up and gone above and beyond the call in terms of facing into this situation and wrapping their arms around states and territories and our people as well in dealing with this situation. 

So, we are human like everyone, we’re dealing with the situation that none of us in the world have dealt with before, I'm very satisfied and am getting a lot of feedback from our people, states and territories, they are very satisfied with the frequency and the transparency of the communication, at the same time I'm human and there’s no doubt that I'm sure my communication hasn’t been perfect, I'm sure, naturally as we all process information differently, some people have been further along in their understanding of the situation and more willing or able to brace the reality of the situation better than others. So I'm not going to claim it perfect, but absolutely we know that we have communicated very frequently, very openly and I thank our people and the states and territories for the messages that I'm getting everyday from them to thank me and our executive team and our board for the fact that the communication is so frequent and so open.

Are you going to open up the books to the Australian Cricketers Association so that they can have a look at your accounts? Secondly, why not a profit organisation would be investing in the share market?

We open up our books to the Australian Cricketers Association on a regular basis and we have done for many years. We have already shared some cash flow projections with the ACA in recent weeks and other information and we are continuing to share further information because, we can’t in good faith be going into the stuff with the ACA about what this situation means for player payments unless we’ve laid all of the information out, which is what we continue to do, again the situation evolves so quickly and so therefore we’re updating that information and due to send some more information to the ACA absolutely.

In terms of the investment strategy of cricket Australia it's very conservative, it's 50% growth assets and 50% defensive assets and so at the end of last financial year of the 90 million dollars that we had in shares and other investments and the cash on top of that, so those three buckets totalled 117 million. Only 41 million of that was in equities and from that point, at June 30 last year, those equities rode to a high point in February and then came off somewhat to the point where there was 36 million dollars last Friday. 

It’s only gone from 41 million at the start of the year to 36 million the other day. It is true that we had a spike in between and then came off by more than that, but it’s also true that thanks to the work of David Evans, Ross Barker and Morgan Stanley, that’s more an appropriately small equities portfolio of 22 million dollars four years ago, is generated a total return of over 50% even taking into account the recent dip. So the recent dip does cause challenges, just like it does for everyone who invests in shares around the world, but credit to David, Ross and Morgan Stanley for the way they have managed it and the reality is that, for the cricket community our returns are 10 million dollars higher for having invested in shares than if we invested in cash along the way, so that’s 10 million dollars more that we have to invest for the long term health and sustainability in growth of the game.

The India Test series this summer would generate the most revenue, but second to that probably would be the Big Bash and the money that gets generated from that. Is there any talk on that being pushed back to allow international travel so that you can have your stars like AB de Villiers present, or is that a last case resort, or do you want to keep the Big Bash in the current window?

A bit of both, it's really important we have the overseas stars playing in the Big Bash to support the local stars and at the same time we’re looking if we can to maintain the window for the Big Bash, but like everything in this unusual world we’re living in right now, we’re learning to embrace different considerations that we might have looked at before. So prior to coronavirus hitting, we were working on some exciting innovations in the BBL. With help from some experts outside cricket including Dave Barron who was one of the mastermind behind the growth of BBL back in his days at Network 10, so some really exciting ideas, many of which don’t cost much or anything to implement and our focus is on innovation in BBL next season so that we can really inspire kids, men, women or cricket fans and if that means that we need to play with the timing of the tournament, the new things in this new world we will absolutely contemplate.

For part 1, click here

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The CEO of Cricket Australia also spoke on a variety of topics. Here's part 1 of the interview
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21 Apr 2020
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