Johannesburg - Cricket South Africa (CSA) seems destined to plunge headlong into a potentially catastrophic collision with the SA Players’ Association (SACA), the players’ union.
At a board meeting to discuss “austerity measures” on Friday, CSA approved plans for domestic re-structuring, but these plans have not been discussed with SACA and, therefore, have neither mandate nor approval from the union.
CSA president, Chris Nenzani, was quoted in the release as saying CSA “has consulted with relevant stakeholders” but SACA’s chief executive, Tony Irish, has made it clear that the relevant stakeholders do not, at present, include the players or their association.
The press release from CSA further detailed plans for domestic re-structuring, widely expected to take place from the 2020/21 season.
“The re-structuring of domestic cricket from franchise to a first-class system, re-organisation of domestics (sic) T20 competitions and optimising player contracts will greatly enhance CSA’s revenue enhancement drives,” said Nenzani.
SACA and CSA have a recently negotiated “Memorandum of Understanding” that binds the parties and provides the basis for the revenue-sharing model between CSA and the players’ association and domestic re-structuring would appear to fly in the face of the agreement because:
1.) It challenges an already negotiated binding settlement between the parties;
2.) It might lead to job losses for players because the re-structuring involves fewer teams and less cricket, although there is a debate about this and,
3.) SACA remains in the dark about CSA’s intentions and are suspicious about the real extent of their financial predicament. Such suspicions were sharpened just last week with the resignation of CSA’s internal auditor at a crucial time in the annual auditing cycle as CSA are about to be externally audited in the coming months.
Irish said in response to CSA’s release and their plans to barrel headlong into a collision with his organisation: “CSA has not consulted properly with the players’ association either on their actual financial position or any re-structuring of the domestic formats.”
He added: “CSA and SACA are parties to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which requires actual agreement to any domestic re-structuring and the status of the player contracts under that structure. This has not happened at present.”
While CSA are, to some extent, buffeted by the fluctuating fortunes of broadcast revenues and also appear to have been disadvantaged in relation to the Future Tours Program (FTP), the mechanism that produces that revenue, the fact that they are in a financial pickle is, to a large degree, their own doing. This all-too-obvious fact was conveniently omitted in Saturday’s press release.
CSA lost approximately R200 million on the aborted T20Global last season, a competition that never took place and ultimately led to the acrimonious parting of ways with their then chief executive, Haroon Lorgat.
Spending at CSA was out of control at the time, with meetings between CSA executives taking place at the Shangri-la hotel in Dubai at exorbitant cost. There was also a lavish tournament launch at the Bulgari Hotel in London’s Knightsbridge, often attended by members of the local press on CSA paid-for junkets, as well as live streaming of the player auction that also cost a pretty penny because it was not televised by SuperSport, with whom CSA were in conflict with at the time.
SACA are aware of the profligacy and cavalier spending and we can assume that they are not going to be duped into accepting austerity measures when CSA’s financial woes have been ‑ at least to some degree ‑ self-inflicted.
At the same time, it might be argued that CSA have been more than generous in relation to SACA in the recent past. The player wage bill for the inaugural edition of the Mzansi Super League late last year nudged R50-million.
This is a hefty sum, given that some so-called “marquee players” like Chris Gayle and Eoin Morgan were only available to their franchises for limited periods and that the tournament lasted barely six weeks. All monies earned by both the local and international players were over and above their standard franchise or national contracts, so all in all the 2018/19 has been a very lucrative one for South Africa’s premier cricketers.
Plans for domestic re-structuring are advanced but not cast in stone. Franchise chief executives have been advised not to contract beyond next season, which suggests that CSA want the re-structuring plans to go ahead.
Early indications are that the current six-team franchise system will be abolished in favour of a 12-team first-class system involving the current “big six” as well as Easterns, North West, Griquas, Border, Boland and South Western Districts.
Johan van Heerden, the Knights chief executive, estimated recently that a new system, with two groups of six teams each, with the winners of each group playing in a first-class final, could save CSA around R40 million per year based on his informal calculations.
This, of course, is predicated on whether SACA play ball, which they do not look like doing at the moment. - Nampa/ANA