Nick Hockley, the interim Cricket Australia chief executive, has a host of issues to deal with ahead of next summer following the unceremonious exit of Kevin Roberts. He shared his thoughts on how to tackle each with ESPNcricinfo.
Getting CA’s staff back to work
Those who were stood down in mid-April at 20% pay and then kept their jobs amid the redundancies, are due to resume full-time work on July 1 but the organisation as a whole will likely need some time to recover from the last few months.
“This has been a really difficult week, for me lots of mixed emotions,” Hockley said. “I think Tuesday feels about three weeks ago and then Wednesday was a very tough day for the organisation, but really now starting to very much focus on what needs to be done immediately. It’s been a really uncertain time to say the least, but we are so extremely fortunate in Australia that we’ve managed to get a really good handle on the coronavirus situation. I speak to family and friends in the UK and everybody knows someone who’s had it, most people know someone who’s sadly passed away, and I don’t think that can be said here. I just can’t wait to get everyone back and just getting really focused on what we need to do because we’ve got a lot to look forward to.”
Getting the state associations together and addressing the funding issue
One of the key stress points that emerged over the last three months was cuts to state grants, which were initially pegged at 45% before being negotiated down to 25%. Even then, however, New South Wales and Queensland refused to sign up and Western Australia said it would only if it was a collective agreement. Meanwhile, more than 150 jobs have been lost across the states, which are also making noises about wanting better representation on the CA board.
“So far I’ve reached out individually, but we’ll be getting together as a real priority,” Hockley said. “I’ve been in Australian cricket from the day I arrived [in 2012] and worked very, very closely with all the state and territory CEOs and the broader teams. Particularly lately, on the T20 World Cup, we ran a really lean local organising committee and that was only possible because we worked so closely with the states and territories. We were all just one team and delivering something fantastic. I’ll certainly be trying to take that collaborative approach, that’s my broad philosophy and approach and always has been.”
Finding common ground with the Australian Cricketers’ Association
Before Roberts’ departure, the ACA had said it would challenge CA’s financial outlook of a 48% drop in revenue. So one of Hockley’s key early jobs will be to attempt to stave off another full-blown dispute and there will need to be some swift relationship-building over the next few weeks.
“I certainly provided frequent updates to their management team around the T20 World Cup,” he said. “I would say I probably know the Australia women’s team players and they would know me better than the men’s players, but moving forward with everyone involved in the game, including the ACA, there’s relationships at all levels, but I look forward to reaching out and working with them.”
Handing over the T20 World Cup and figuring out when it will be played
It remains all but certain that the tournament will not take place in October and November as scheduled with the challenge of having 15 international teams travelling into Australia too great in the wake of the Covid-19 situation. There are a range of options on the table about when it could be moved to, with CA having made clear its preference for a 12-month delay, and a decision is expected next month. Hockley confirmed an interim replacement for his previous role could be confirmed as soon as next week.
“We’ve developed scenario plans for all options,” he said. “They range from later this summer to a year or two years out. In sport generally everything’s been thrown up in the air and how and when that’s best scheduled is just a really complicated jigsaw puzzle. That’s something we’ve been working through with the ICC and hopefully for the sake of the team but more particularly for the sake of everyone who’s bought tickets and is looking forward to it that we just get some clarity as quickly as we possibly can.”
Calming relations with CA’s broadcasters as sport comes back
The winter sports have been involved in some tough negotiations with broadcasters but in cricket – apart from a couple of ODIs against New Zealand – the potential losses have been theoretical. Now it appears the 2020-21 season will go ahead as scheduled, except probably for the one-day series against Zimbabwe in August, although there will always been some concern about the risk of a second Covid-19 spike.
“This week’s been an absolute whirlwind but I’m very much look forward to working with our partners,” Hockley said. “My real focus is looking to deliver the upcoming summer, which if you think about the broadcasters, that’s delivering our end of the bargain, and that’s my real primary priority to make sure we do everything we possibly can to deliver the summer schedule.
“The world fell off a cliff very quickly, and no-one knew what it all meant. Now as time goes on we can see how the scenarios are progressing. The reality is there’s been diverging fortunes all around the world. Every time we hear a positive announcement, every time we hear whether it’s a few more people are allowed in corporate boxes or we’re allowed 10,000 fans at venues of 40,000, all of these little announcements we’re watching very closely. We’re working with the governments at a federal and state level and we’re cautiously optimistic that we’re going to see a great summer of cricket.”
Dealing with bio-security requirements for internationals and the BBL
While the bilateral international summer is locked in barring dramatic changes around Covid-19, there remains a lot of work to do ahead of the series that will still need extensive bio-security plans. The BBL, which is staged largely during the holiday period in December and January, will be the biggest challenge on the domestic front.
“A lot of the bio-security measures, they’re led by health experts, but a lot of the considerations are logistical. Ultimately it’s all about problem solving,” Hockley said. “I’ve been taking in minute detail from the biosecurity planning we’ve been doing for T20 World Cup, which has been a collaborative effort with CA and so we’re sharing knowledge.
“The prospect of getting one team into the country and then touring round and playing singular events in different cities is very different to bringing 15 teams in and having six, seven or eight teams in one city at the same time. There’s a significant amount of additional complexity around these measures for a World Cup as compared to a bilateral series. I know there’s been a huge amount of work gone into the BBL. I’m starting with a very high level of base understanding, but getting up to speed on the detail is something I’ll be doing over the coming days.”