Worrisome development

In the sports section of last Sunday’s edition, this newspaper broke a story that the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) was asking Under-15 and Under-17 players to sign contracts with long term implications for their future earnings from the game of cricket.

Stabroek Sport published photographs of the contract which included clauses that must be of a worrisome nature to the parents of the aspiring young cricketers, who were asked to sign these contracts in their presence.  The contract headed ‘Player Agreement’ and sub-titled ‘GCB Initial PLAYER AGREEMENT’ requires the player to agree to the GCB deducting  five percent of their future earnings.

“The parties entered into an agreement on the player’s representation of the Guyana Cricket Board/and or its affiliate organization, through which a financial earning from playing cricket may be derived,” is the first clause in the agreement. Other clauses include:

Under section 1 Player Obligations, 1.1 The Player agrees as follows:  (a) “As soon as practicable upon being eligible to earn a cricket professional fee for representing domestic cricket semi-professional or professional team (s), professional cricket for Guyana, any other cricket representative earnings, the player would have been deemed to have entered into a Player Contract with the GCB and/or it affiliate organizations.

“(b) That such a contract shall include the player allocating and have deducted 5% of his/her earning for playing cricket under and through the GCB or its affiliate organization associated with the said player benefits from the disbursement of his/her  5% deducted funds to reflect:

1.   3% to GCB and or its representative organization.

2.   1% to the County Board

3.   1% to Players Club as named herein, subject to agreeable transfer and/or change of membership. In any case, where the player’s club falls under an Association/Cricket Committee, the percentage payable to the club shall be shared 50/50 with that entity.

“(e) That the player shall reserve the right to negotiate future contracts, but shall be subject to the 5% deduction to the local entities. “

The West Indies Players Association (WIPA) President Wavell Hinds, when asked to comment on this development, said, “WIPA is in discussion with CWI [Cricket West Indies] and the GCB about the matter.”  All players’ contracts should first be reviewed by the WIPA before players can be asked to sign them, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Memorandum of Understanding between the West Indies board and the WIPA.  At present, it appears that Guyana is the only territory in the region asking players to sign contracts of this nature.

This is not the first time that the WIPA will lock horns with the GCB over players’ contracts. Back in 2010, they clashed over the contract the GCB presented to Guyana’s selectees after they had won the Caribbean T20 Championship and became the region’s representatives for the Airtel T20 2010 Champions tournament in South Africa.

The GCB had presented the players with five or six page contracts, as compared to the original 100 page contracts, claiming that the contracts were voluminous for them, and the players quite rightly sought the WIPA’s opinion on the matter before signing the contracts. Instead of providing the WIPA with a copy of the contract, the GCB negotiated directly with the players, whilst resorting to its Standard Operating Procedure, which is to sprint to the courts. This it did and obtained from the High Court an injunction against the WIPA ‘interfering in their negotiations with the players.’

The WIPA was caught unawares by the injunction since they had not been served with any legal papers advising of the injunction and the writ. In its subsequent strongly worded statement, the WIPA accused the GCB of pressuring the players to sign the contracts, or else Barbados would be sent as the region’s entry into the tournament.

That was 2010, when the WIPA was under the aggressive leadership of the Trinidadian Dinanath Ramnarine. Today, it is led by Hinds, who reportedly enjoys a good working relationship with his fellow Jamaican, CWI president, Dave Cameron, who in turn enjoys the strong support of the GCB.

The general public fully understands that cricket is now a business and the board should be entitled to some kind of return for the investment it puts in to player development. One can understand asking the senior players, (one of whom on the condition of anonymity claims that a WIPA representative told him not to sign the contract since the GCB has not entered into any negotiations on the issue) to sign such agreements, since having reached adulthood, they would have committed to cricket as a career.

Several questions need to be asked here. Firstly, is this contract a breach of the players’ constitutional rights? At what age can we really ask a child to comprehend the implications of a contract of such a nature? Why isn’t there a termination clause? Why aren’t the terms more explicit? How long are the players being bonded for? Who or what are the affiliate organizations mentioned in the contract? If a player’s parents refuses to allow him/her to sign the contract, or they are legally advised for him/her not to do so, does it make the player ineligible to represent Guyana?

No doubt more questions will arise. Will we get any answers?  We patiently await the WIPA’s response on this matter.

Or will the GCB just get another injunction preventing the release of the signed contracts?

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