Professionals aim for more united new world

The union's story: A movement for all is now the ambition
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The Independent Online

England's cricketers' trade union - the PCA - yesterday ann-ounced support for Lord MacLaurin's call for international action to expose and combat gambling in international cricket. A fuller statement will be made by the PCA - the Professional Cricketers' Association - in the middle of this week after Peter Walker, the former Glamorgan and England player, and Richard Bevan, a PCA director, have collated the views of their executive and consulted with other members of the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations, Fica.

This cautious response has been dictated by the determination to create a united front with players' associations in other cricket-playing nations before responding to the Cronje affair. Unofficially, the PCA do not accept the remark of the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Lord MacLaurin, that Hansie Cronje's behaviour is only "the tip of the iceberg". One senior official says: "That is not a remark I would have made." But there is no argument with Lord MacLaurin's declaration, "We hold the game in our hands."

Although the delayed response may appear to be a bureaucratic nicety, it signals another stage in the development of international cricket trade unionism. Fica, who first met in Dubai last July, are so new that their name does not appear in the 2000 Wisden. But when the nine members meet again this July they will be strongly enough organised to appoint a chief executive to speak for all cricketers. (Except, perhaps, those in Pakistan, who still have no domestic association.)

The development of Fica is a response to a state of affairs in cricket which might provoke players to gamble or to sell advice to bookies. Employment conditions vary, but traditionally cricketers have been victims of a laissez faire attitude to employment: the rich may get richer, but the poor drag along behind, and woe betide them if they get injured. Bevan makes the point that an English player who loses his job through injury received, until recently, only £4,000. Action by the PCA has increased this to £20,000. The PCA's emphasis, at home and abroad, is on conditions of work rather than the morality of play. Fica, to raise their profile, have been making use of their major asset - the celebrity of their membership. Cricketers from all Test countries vote forFica's International Player of the Year.

Unlike normal trade unions, which negotiate with employers for improvements in working conditions, the PCA's policy is to raise as much money by their own activities as they receive from the ECB. A subsidiary named PCA Management Ltd, run by Bevan, have made deals with 100 business partners, such as Fleming, the bankers, Waterford Wedgwood and Coca-Cola. There is an official PCA soft drink, Appletise (but no official hard drink so far).

In the past 12 months the management company have raised £800,000. Bevan's target for 2001 is £1.2m. The cash will be used to boost insurance policies, to improve education and to provide benevolent support for players. "Effectively, long term, we're building a business that players leaving the game will be able to tap into," says Bevan.

And, presumably, in the manner of Victorian philanthropists, to deliver them from the temptations of the bookies.