Players drafted to the eight respective teams in the men’s competition received a letter via email on Monday afternoon, signed by the managing director of The Hundred Sanjay Patel, informing them that both their “player contract” and “player draft and appearances contract” have been terminated with immediate effect. This was done via a force majeure clause written into the contracts which removes liability for unforeseen circumstances, such as a global pandemic.
On Thursday, the ECB confirmed the delay of the competition’s opening season after a board meeting decided against shoehorning it into a reduced summer. The associated issues with global travel and crowds would mean playing The Hundred in 2020 would contradict its ambitions to feature world-class players and attract a broader audience.
Their next move was to find a way to cut costs as Covid-19 continues to have a debilitating effect on the finances of English cricket. The ECB have been in constant dialogue with the Professional Cricketers’ Association throughout the pandemic and, last week, those talks moved on to player contracts in The Hundred. Combined with coaches’ salaries, the ECB were still liable for over £1million even after this year’s cancellation.
Players have received five percent of their overall salary and were due to receive 80 percent at the end of the 2020 tournament. The remaining 15 percent was to be drip-fed from the start of the year.
While The Independent understands most of that portion has made its way to players, the force majeure clause means the ECB will not owe them any more money from Monday.
An ECB statement read: “We can confirm that a letter terminating current player contracts has been issued today to all involved. This letter is necessary paperwork to legally update and inform players of the situation, which follows a notification last week around the launch of the new competition being moved to 2021.
“We are working closely with PCA on a number of options for players regarding next year’s launch.”
There will be further, tougher conversations to be had between the ECB and PCA. Players who made the cut in October’s draft will look to ensure there is at least a gentlemen’s agreement in place to ensure 2021’s allocation of teams and, importantly, price brackets are as they were for 2020.
However, it may not be that simple. The PCA have asked their player representatives at the 18 counties to gauge what they think should happen with regards to contracts rolling over to next year. Perhaps naturally, a player who feels unlucky to have missed out in the 2019 draft may choose to rally against such an agreement in the hope of being picked up in any new draft.
The ECB, however, will not be obligated to follow the players’ lead on this particular matter. However their use of the force majeure may lean them towards rolling contracts over.
If cricket were to be played this summer, even behind closed doors, it could be argued that, actually, The Hundred could have taken place in 2020. As such, doing right by those successful in the original draft will be a priority.
The ECB are still hopeful The Hundred will have a transformative effect on English cricket, and believe it will be an integral part in the rebuilding needed once coronavirus has finally passed.
“If anything this crisis and the implication long term or medium term, the case for the hundred is even more important,” chief executive Tom Harrison said last week. “I don’t think this [the coronavirus pandemic] in any way dilutes the case for the Hundred, it absolutely accelerates it and makes it something cricket needs to get behind.”
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