Melbourne: Recruiting for Australia's revamped Twenty20 league can finally begin after the cricket board and the players' union settled on terms and conditions for the 2011-2012 domestic summer.
Plans by Cricket Australia to launch an eight-team T20 Big Bash had been delayed because of negotiations with the Australian Cricketers' Association over issues including central and state contracts and minimum levels of pay for international and domestic first-class players in all modes of the game.
Cricket Australia can now finalise its list of 25 centrally contracted players. From 2011-12, players can have two contracts: one via the national or state establishment and another one with a Big Bash League club.
Under the new 12-month memorandum of understanding, announced on Tuesday, the players have retained their 26 per cent share of Australian cricket revenue and agreed to changes in contract structures.
The eight city-based BBL clubs will be allowed to sign 18 players, including two foreigners, to stand-alone free-agency contracts for the T20 league, within a yet-to-be-confirmed salary cap.
The minimum pay for state and so-called rookie contract holders will drop because those contracts will now only cover first-class and one-day cricket, while T20 cricket will be considered separately as it breaks from the traditional state-based formula.
In the BBL, players will be paid on a retainer basis, rather than on match payments.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said both the board and the players' union agreed to defer outstanding issues — mostly hinging on private investment in the BBL teams — for a year "to ensure we can all get on with planning a big summer."
"Australian cricket has one of its biggest summers ever coming up in terms of both fan appeal but also in terms of revenue coming into the game," Sutherland said. "The launch of BBL is important to us and to the ACA because of its long-term value helping cricket recruit young people to become cricket fans; and the international program we hope to announce later this week."
ACA spokesman Paul Marsh said the one-year agreement was a "pragmatic outcome for players and Australian cricket."
"The new Big Bash League has thrown up some complex issues that we haven't previously encountered and it became apparent to both parties that we wouldn't be able to resolve these prior to the expiry of the current," memorandum of understanding, he said.
"However, we felt that getting a deal done before the current MOU expired was the responsible course of action and gives both the players and the game's administrators certainty ahead of a very important 12 months for Australian cricket."
Twenty20 competitions have sprung up all over the cricket world and the popularity of the shortest version of international cricket has boomed since the advent of the lucrative Indian Premier League, which provided unprecedented cash windfalls for players from all over the world.