Sunday, 10 November 2019

Transfer Fees in Cricket?

"There's no mistake, I smell that smell, it's that time of year again" sang the Stereophonics but around the time that the clocks go back in the cricketing world, the smell of the movement of players, permeates the shires. This week Dawid Malan swapped Hampton for Headingley and went to Yorkshire, whilst Reece Topley turned down the advances of Sussex and hopped it up the A23 to the Oval. Whilst both counties have expressed their good wishes to the player, it has left such a sour taste in the mouths of some fans on social media, that even Monica Lewinsky would balk at it. So is it time to start bringing in transfer fees into cricket to protect the counties?

Malan...Yorkshire bound
Player power is a term that we hear often in football but is it starting to come into cricket too? Certainly Malan, who still had two years left on his Middlesex deal and had just had a benefit season, must either have shit hot employment lawyers advising him or there must have been some form of compensation paid out. Or do counties just say "after you Claud" and let them go in the ethos that it is better not to have an unhappy player in the dressing room? The fact that someone who was skipper and with some England caps behind him, was no doubt one of the higher paid members of the squad, so perhaps by freeing up some money on the payroll you can get another player in.

Contracts should protect the employer and employee. There are two schools of thought with these moves. Thought one is that players are getting encouraged to move by greedy agents who will make a quick buck on the back of their client moving to a county who is going to pay them a damn sight more. On the flip side, a player only has a very short career and has to maximise his window of opportunity. Malan at 32 and Topley who has had such serious back injuries that early retirement was a distinct possibility, will be wanting to earn as much as they can in what is left of their careers.

With Topley, he was offered a deal at Sussex and turned it down to go to Surrey. As the coach of his employer Jason Gillespie pointed out "He is free to sign where he wants" but fans down on the south coast weren't happy. They felt that Sussex had played a part in his rehabilitation back into the game, taking a chance on someone who was injury prone. to the Oval

In the corporate world, there is a phrase called "Gardening Leave". If a key employee is going to a rival, his employers find it prudent to pay the individual to sit at home for the duration of their notice period. There are normally quite strict clauses in their contract and they are forbidden from telling their clients that they are off to a new place. It is a system that protects the employer from a rival, who the employee is about to join, getting the upper hand over them. Having been put on gardening leave myself twice, let me tell you that it is prudent to time this so that it coincides with the cricket season. June or July are often good - August you get lumbered with the kids. I digress...

The point I am making, is that nothing like this happens in cricket. The player tells a county he doesn't fancy it anymore there and goes to somewhere who no doubt are paying him a few quid extra, with a long term deal thrown in for good measure. He is free to start playing straight away, no notice period, no gardening leave.

The only thing that came close was in the case of Tom Graveney. Having resigned his job as skipper of Gloucestershire (sound familiar?), Tom decided to go and earn his corn at Worcestershire. Apparently young Thomas had to go and meet a "residence qualification" for Worcestershire and missed virtually the whole of the 1961 season. Imagine that happening now? In the days of Gentleman and Players, the counties certainly had far more control than they do now.

Graveney...missed a season

But are we going to see moves like Malan and Topley happening more and more? Are the smaller counties going to become feeder clubs for the big boys? With the advent of the Hundred, there is no doubt that the Test hosting counties will have far more purchase power than that say, for Northants. A few years ago, Leicestershire members weren't happy that those from Robin Hood's county were robbing their less wealthy neighbours as the likes of Stuart Broad, Harry Gurney and James Taylor moved from Grace Road to Trent Bridge. We already seem to have a two division county system on and off the pitch, as those who are bottom of Division Two in the financial stakes are at risk from the players being plundered by the bigger fish.

In the case of some South Africans, they are even turning their back on their country - surely the pinnacle of a sporting career and the dream of all children who play the game - to pick up more money over here.

So do the smaller counties or even countries need protection? A transfer fee would surely be a step in the right direction. Or would that just be lining the pockets of unscrupulous agents? If a county has invested a lot of time and effort into coaching a player, they should surely be compensated for their time and effort. Or is this the corporate world that we live in, where a dog eat dog mentality exists and if you want loyalty from players, then go and sign a spaniel? Players now seem to move counties and play for various clubs and franchises around the world, a lot more than they used to. There are a lot more questions than answers.

I think this one is going to run and run...

1 comment:

  1. I certainly don't want cricketers sitting around in the summer because one county wants to pay someone to do nothing. At the moment few players move mid-season and so the garden leave from 1 October to 1 April say is around 6 months.

    Well done for recalling Tom Graveney's position. It was mentioned in the Swanson/Arlott book I'm reading at the moment (concerns about Test cricket and declining county attendances aren't new!).

    On your central question re transfer fees, are you sure no money went from Yorkshire to Middlesex in the case of Malan?