South Africa’s nationally contracted players deserve a great deal of credit for speaking out about the dysfunctional organisation that is Cricket South Africa. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
South Africa’s nationally contracted players deserve a great deal of credit for speaking out about the dysfunctional organisation that is Cricket South Africa. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Cricket South Africa administrators need to pad up

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Sep 6, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s nationally contracted players deserve a great deal of credit for speaking out about the dysfunctional organisation that is Cricket South Africa.

However, they should never have been put in the position where that was done.

In a very broad sense, South African sport is terribly administered. Athletes,when they succeed, do so in spite of the administrators, not because of them.

Sport in this country is managed on the basis of individual self-interest, which leads to greed. Too many sports federations are still administered according to amateur principles - some elements of which are not bad particularly pertaining to selflessness - but which pay too little cognisance to the need for a more rounded professional approach befitting the modern age.

Cricket South Africa was given the opportunity to establish an administration that utilised wide-ranging components - legal, marketing and business – back in 2012. The organisation had just been through an extremely painful and chaotic period after the country had hosted the Indian Premier League in 2009.

It emerged that senior officials at CSA, including the then CEO, Gerald Majola, had been pocketing bonuses illicitly. Cricket SA desperately tried to engage in a cover-up, but eventually, then Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, chose to set up a Commission of Inquiry, headed by retired high court judge Chris Nicholson.

Nicholson would go on to make a series of recommendations, with one of the most noteworthy being the creation of a board of directors, drawn from outside of cricket circles, with a range of expertise that would create a modern, ethically driven administration with a principled business outlook.

Cricket SA would unfortunately fold under pressure from the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee. Whether CSA folded willingly -because some individual administrators saw themselves losing power - is still a matter of debate eight years later.

What CSA did was dilute Nicholson’s recommendations as far as the administration was concerned, shrinking the number of recommended independent directors from nine to five, while increasing the number of non-independent directors (provincial union presidents) to seven.

Those seven provincial union presidents were drawn from CSA’s 14-person Members Council, the highest decision-making authority in Cricket South Africa. So half of the Members Council, would be the majority on the Board of Directors. It was a recipe for disaster.

However because of greed and self-interest, CSA’s administrators were happy to employ that structure and Sascoc was happy to see it done that way.

As was the case with Majola just over a decade earlier, the CEO, this time Thabang Moroe, would assume far greater responsibility with the Board seemingly practicing very little oversight.

When Moroe was suspended in December 2019, it was done by the Board. But then the Members Council - half of whom sit on the Board remember takes control, to appoint the forensic auditors, which will investigate Moroe for misconduct (among other things) and also, the workings of the Board and how it carried out its oversight.

Nine months later, with Moroe now fired, the Members Council, who commissioned the investigation, can’t gain access to the forensic report, unless those representatives sign Non-Disclosure Agreements. That is because, according to CSA’s lawyers, Bowman Gilfillan, the organisation and Board specifically would be compromisedmif the report fell into the hands, particularly of people against whom CSA are litigating. “Bowmans,” the Central Gauteng Lions wrote in a letter to the law firm following feedback about why the Members Council couldn’t access the report, “has urged the board to balance the potential harm to CSA of full publication against the harm of not publishing the report to the (Members Council) and beyond and the Board ultimately made a decision that it is not in the best interests to divulge the full report.”

The Board and the Members Council have been pitted against each other even though half of the Members Council sits on the Board.

There was an angry undertone to that statement made by the Proteas players last Tuesday. “Politics and self-interest appear to trump cricket imperatives and good governance,” they said. In assessing how CSA and its administrators twisted the Nichol son’s recommendations to suit their own ends it appears that politics and self-interest were put ahead of actually making cricket better.

Cricket SA can do with some new faces and voices in its administrative leadership. In fact it’s desperately needed. For too long administrators have been more interested in petty politics, or fancy lunches in long rooms around the country.

There are matters requiring urgent attention; transformation, the organisation’s finances, a clear plan for the post-lockdown years, how to improve the Proteas (men’s and women’s teams, which both have a critical few years ahead) and how to grow the game in a more sustainable way, which will require partnerships with the government through the Basic Education, Corporate Governance and Traditional Affairs and Sports departments.

Right now, the closest thing to leadership we’ve seen in South African cricket, has come from the players, encapsulated by Lungi Ngidi following the men’s team’s culture camp. “We all know that you play for South Africa on merit and not because of the colour of your skin. I think the greatest thing was helping everyone understand why,” he said about the conversations the players had at the camp. “I feel like sometimes people are scared or embarrassed to ask, so being able to speak out in that environment really cleared up a lot of grey areas for a lot of people.”

Ngidi would make a good CEO or President of CSA, but you know, he’s got a job to do, taking wickets, so it’s time the administrators did theirs.

@shockerhess

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