Cricket SA president Chris Nenzani. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – The suspended Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) board have vowed to fight their suspension by any means possible. 

This could prove difficult, however, given that they have been banned from the Newlands offices and, were they to fight their suspension via legal means, they would have to pay their own costs. “There are no reasonable grounds for what CSA have done,” said an administrator close to the action. “We are seeking legal advice.”

On Sunday, Cricket South Africa (CSA) exercised their “step-in” rights at WPCA, dissolving the current board and appointing former WPCA chief executive, André Odendaal as a temporary administrator. 

CSA were deliberately vague in detailing the reasons for stepping in – an unusual and provocative action – but did accuse WPCA of conducting their financial and governance affairs under “distressed conditions”, a situation that also pertains to several other unions around the country.

The African News Agency (ANA) understands that the root cause of CSA’s heavy-handedness are the repayment of loans to WPCA totalling approximately R80-million. Such loans have in part acted as bridging finance as WPCA finalise the sale and financing of the Newlands B field to property developer Sanlam. 

According to sources, the project could be worth as much as R1-billion and, if successful, could make WPCA significantly less financially dependent on CSA.

CSA are themselves trading in the distressed circumstances they accuse WPCA of, announcing post their recent AGM that they incurred losses of R200-million for the past financial year. They might be massaging the figures slightly, because the SA Cricketers’ Association (SACA), estimate that CSA could be heading for losses as large as R1-billion in the next four-year (2018-2022) budget cycle.

CSA and SACA are currently locked in an action around the re-structuring of the domestic playing schedule that has seen SACA lodge papers against them in the South Gauteng High Court.

ANA also understands that CSA’s sudden annoyance at WP has less to do with loan repayments than it has to do with equity in the new development on Newlands B. CSA have 24% shares in the newly-constituted property company (Propco) in which they are a minority partner with WPCA, but are known to want more.

“They basically strong-armed themselves into the development as it is,” said a source close to the action, “but that’s not good enough for them and they want more because they spot an opportunity and they want complete control.”

Some members of the WPCA board of 12 (of which five are independent) are known to be furious about CSA evoking the “step-in” clause. They argue that not only is it heavy-handed from a governance point of view but they have served reputational damage as a result.

There are some heavy-hitters on the board, including Brimstone’s Mushtaq Brey and Fagmeedah Petersen-Cook, former chief investment officer for the Eskom Pension Fund.

Before becoming an independent director at WPCA, Petersen-Cook served two years as one of the Gauteng Cricket Board’s (GCB) independent directors. While there, she was critical of the Langa Report and its recommendations, which entrenched racial voting blocks on the board for six years, 2013-2019. After her departure, she labelled these “divisive”.

Shortly before the Langa recommendations were due to be abolished after the 2019 Gauteng AGM, CSA intervened in Gauteng’s affairs and appointed an administrator to see whether they should be extended, despite widespread opposition to this. 

The Gauteng AGM has yet to take place, one of the implications of this being that Jack Madiseng, the Gauteng president, has retained his position on the CSA board. There was significant opposition to him at the local level and had elections taken place as they were meant to, there existed the possibility that he may have been voted off the Gauteng board, thus losing his place at CSA.

Combined with the Gauteng example, the WPCA “step-in” demonstrates that CSA have become nothing more than a crass club of bully-boys. Their standing in the local sporting fraternity has never been lower.

African News Agency (ANA)