The rot in Cricket South Africa has become systemic ©Getty
A makeshift team for the third Test in Ranchi is only the half of it, as Cricket South Africa (CSA) face down widespread criticism and uppity partners on several fronts back home.
On Thursday morning (October 17), for example, just when the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) were preparing to embarrass CSA in public, they finally received word that CSA had agreed to pay the R2-million still owed to SACA members from last year’s Mzansi Super League (MSL), CSA’s long-awaited adventure into 20-over cricket.
The second edition of the MSL starts on November 8 with a game at the Wanderers between the Jozi Stars, the defending champions, and Cape Town Blitz, with tickets priced well within ordinary fans’ reach at R60 each.
As SACA were on the cusp of publicising the non-payment, they received a letter from CSA, the effect of which means that SACA members will not only get their long-outstanding monies, but that SACA can now enter into a commercial rights agreement for MSL2.
This means the players’ image and commercial rights can be used to advertise and promote a tournament that got off to a slow start in last year’s inaugural edition. Such co-operation is important because the MSL’s financial future is less than rosy, with no headline sponsor at time of writing and a broadcast deal with the cash-strapped public broadcaster, the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
Despite CSA’s commitment to pay up, the relationship between the players and the mother body continues to be frosty. The parties are still locked in the South Gauteng High Court (and have been since early June) with SACA insisting that they need to be privy to the financial rationale behind CSA’s proposed reshuffling of the domestic structure from the 2020/21 season, a proposal that could lose up to 70 players their jobs.
CSA, according to SACA, have brazenly missed court deadlines and stalled the process wherever possible.
SACA supported their motion with a dossier of 234 pages (with annexures to “U”) to which CSA’s lawyers have responded with 2000 pages of specious documentation – a transparent delaying tactic. “The impression that CSA are giving people, that, ‘Don’t worry, things are under control’, couldn’t be further from the truth as far as we’re concerned,” SACA’s outgoing chief executive, Tony Irish, told Cricbuzz on Friday.
One of the most powerful unions in the country is also locking legal horns with CSA at the moment, with the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) launching an urgent interdict against CSA a week ago.
On September 20, CSA dismissed the entire 13-strong WPCA board, arguing that WPCA were trading in “distressed conditions” and imposing an interim administrator.
Although it took some time to do so, last weekend the WPCA board unanimously decided to challenge the legality of their suspension, with Cricbuzz understanding that the matter is set down on the roll of the Gauteng High Court for Tuesday (October 22).
The WP directors argue that the accusation that they’re trading under distressed conditions is a red herring, and what’s really at stake is access to the potential riches that will accrue to WPCA after the sale of the Newlands B field to property developer, Sanlam.
WP do not dispute CSA’s claim that they are owed R80-million but point out that loans and grants to affiliates is standard practice, and that the money will be paid back in due course. “The terrible thing here is that the game [in South Africa] is now eating itself alive,” said a WPCA board member. “That’s not a pleasant visual.”
Adding to the theme of heavy-handed CSA interference in affiliate affairs, is CSA’s involvement at the Central Gauteng Lions (CGL) who, like Western Province, have yet to have an annual general meeting.
In 2013, as a result of the Langa Commission, racial voting blocks were entrenched on the CGL board, a situation that was meant to normalise governance matters and last for six years. Shortly before the Langa proposals were due to end before the 2019 CGL AGM, CSA intervened, appointing retired judge, Bernard Ngoepe, to look into whether they had fulfilled their objective of levelling the playing field.
The move was seen as an attempt to entrench the power of a selected few and pave the way for a known CSA insider, CGL president, Jack Madiseng, to eventually become CSA president. Had the CGL’s AGM gone ahead as per schedule, there was a possibility that Madiseng would be unseated and therefore lose his place as the CGLs’ representative on the CSA board.
While much of this remains esoteric and uninteresting to a broader constituency, the rot has clearly become systemic. CSA have recently altered their constitution to allow their president, Chris Nenzani, another year of office (Nenzani has been in the position for two three-year terms already – the maximum period allowed) and it is noticeable the degree to which CSA’s shenanigans and bluster have alienated corporate South Africa. They remain chary of any involvement with cricket while the current chief executive, Thabang Moroe, a former client services manager at cellular giant, MTN, is in charge, evidenced by the fact that the domestic first-class competition, the second round of which is taking place at the moment, remains without a sponsor.
Meanwhile, the national side, governed by a coaching structure no-one understands and selected without either a convenor of selectors or a national selection panel, lurches from crisis to on-field crisis. Aiden Markram, who has looked diffident in the Tests after a hopeful beginning to his Indian tour, was sent home on Thursday after fracturing his wrist while possibly punching something, an action that produced an apology “to the team and the people of South Africa”.
CSA were approached for comment. They had declined to do so at the time of going to press.