Acting CSA CEO Thabang Moroe will try to make sure the players will be put first in the MoU. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Cricket South Africa (CSA) need to rebuild relationships with their most important assets 
the country’s professional players.

To describe relations as broken might be an exaggeration but they are certainly fragile and overwhelmingly it is CSA’s fault.

Everything from the failure to establish the Global League T20, the subsequent ham-fisted attempts at supposedly resolving that issue, which has seen no one claim responsibility, the former CEO still pocketing his full salary, to the recent fallout with the players, can be directly blamed on the administrators.

The players themselves have done their best to help mask administrative blunders; they were largely the reason a sponsor (RAM) came on board to back the domestic T20 competition, which had to be rapidly rescheduled when the GLT20 fell apart; then they won two demanding Tests series, against world No1 India, and achieved an historic triumph against Australia.

By all accounts, it was one of the great domestic seasons of the post-isolation era, but hovering in the background was the ineptitude of CSA’s administrators, which ensured that unfortunately the summer of 2017/18 will be viewed in a less than favourable light.

The culmination was the near collapse in relations between the players and CSA recently over the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding, which seeks to put in place agreements over players’ salaries and commercial rights.

Previous negotiations regarding the MoU between CSA and the players’ union, the SA Cricketers’ Association, have been tough, as is the case with such matters, but this year there’s been a level of acrimony that’s led to distrust that was largely absent in the past.

The atmosphere for the negotiations had been set last December when CSA’s stand-in CEO Thabang Moroe told media there would be significant changes to the MoU, even before the players had been consulted.

It caught the players by surprise and his confrontational tone didn’t sit well with them either.

“Ultimately, the people that make money for cricket is Cricket South Africa, it’s not a union,” Moroe said at the time. “I just have a view on how a company should be run from the management point of view and how a company needs to engage with a trade union.”

A few months later Moroe said a task team comprising four provincial CEOs would handle talks regarding the MoU. Again the players were not aware.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the announcement because it was contrary to what we had last heard from CSA,” Saca CEO Tony Irish said last month.

With the April 30 deadline approaching Moroe once more made public utterances about the MoU, but this time the players’ shock was replaced with anger as again there had been no consultation.

“Saca has been doing everything possible from its side for approximately three months to engage with CSA on the MoU and to deal with the key elements to enable player contracts to be finalised well in advance of the 30th April 2018, being the date on which the majority of player contracts end,” Irish said a week ago.

“In past MoUs the key elements have always been agreed by the end of February at the latest to ensure a proper player contracting process can take place well in advance of expiry dates.

“Unfortunately our attempts to date have been met with very little response from CSA and much of our correspondence has gone unanswered.”

This time, it was CSA who were stunned by the players’ forthright response.

Eventually, task teams were set aside and Irish and Moroe spoke, leading to Friday’s interim agreement. It is a big win for the players, who will get a six percent salary increase while the next MoU will be negotiated with June 30 fixed as a deadline.

Perhaps the eye-opening element from last week’s talks is the recognition from all parties about the breakdown in trust.

The players were furious with the administrators for most of last season, touched by the embarrassment that was the failure to start the GLT20, particularly after all that flashy build-up that included a player draft in Cape Town.

CSA and Saca “committed to negotiating a recognition agreement to regulate the ongoing relationship between them”.

No one can afford a breakdown in relations, least of all CSA, whose reputation is almost as at low an ebb as during the bonus scandal in 2009.

They can ill-afford to have a fractious relationship with the players, who nowadays have many more options at their disposal in terms of earning a living through playing than was the case even five years ago.

Sunday Independent

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