Cricket Australia boss steps down amid virus backlash

Kevin Roberts is pictured during a press conference.
Kevin Roberts has resigned from his position as Cricket Australia CEO. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Cricket Australia has announced World T20 chief Nick Hockley will take over as CEO, following the resignation of Kevin Roberts.

Hockley has been named interim CEO, replacing Roberts just 20 months into his three year term, after he took over from James Sutherland in 2018.

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The pressure on Roberts had been growing since April 16, when he shocked CA workers by informing them that the vast majority would be stood down for the rest of the financial year.

Roberts becomes the third CEO of a major Australian sporting code to lose their job amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cricket Australia chairman Earl Eddings, when announcing the move to staff on Tuesday morning, said the organisation needed a ‘circuit breaker’ to right the ship.

“Cricket, like all national sports, has been going through a period of significant change and – in recent months we have had the added uncertainty delivered by COVID-19,” he said in a statement.

"The entire cricket community has been affected and difficult decisions have been – and will continue to be necessary – to ensure that cricket at every level is in the best shape it can be now and in the future.

Disgruntlement grew among staff as Roberts also failed to soothe discontent as the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA), several state associations and other stakeholders slung allegations they had been plunged into a confected crisis.

CA workers, many of which felt Roberts and his executives should have taken a far bigger pay cut than 20 per cent as they wrestled with COVID-19 financial challenges, are still anxiously waiting to find out if they will return on July 1 or be let go.

The 47-year-old was contracted until 2021, having been appointed in October 2018 following James Sutherland's 17-year tenure.

Pay concerns lead Cricket Australia discontent

Roberts repeatedly insisted that belt-tightening measures were prudent because the health crisis had cast doubt over so much of this summer's revenue, having sought a $200 million line of bank credit amid warnings that CA could run out of money by August.

Recent months have been full of promising COVID-19 developments in Australia, while India have made it clear they wish to arrive this summer and play a series that should generate approximately $300 million in broadcast revenue for CA.

The governing body has debated its financial position and projections with the players' union and state associations since Roberts started his cost-cutting mission, wanting to slice 25 per cent across the board.

Nick Hockley is pictured during a T20 World Cup press conference.
Nick Hockley will take over as interim CEO of Cricket Australia, following his tenure as chief of the T20 World Cup. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

The ACA, which memorably rowed with Roberts while he was the chief negotiator during the 2017 pay spat, and several states have questioned the numbers and need for such drastic action.

Usman Khawaja publicly accused CA of financial mismanagement, while many players feel CA should be better placed to weather the financial storm given the pandemic hit during their off-season.

Former Cricket NSW chairman John Warn, current CA director John Harnden and WACA chief executive Christina Matthews were the other candidates overlooked when Roberts was given the top job, a decision that rankled some state associations.

Matthews, who recently expressed public frustration at CA's decision to not schedule an India Test in Perth this summer, would likely have strong support in state circles if she decided to apply for the position again.

With AAP