Maverick Sport

Cricket South Africa bumbles to another embarrassment with accreditation debacle

By Craig Ray 2 December 2019
Caption
Thabang Moroe, CEO of Cricket South Africa. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

Cricket South Africa chief executive Thabang Moroe used petrol to attempt to douse a flame after his organisation banned five journalists over the weekend before revoking its own decision without explanation.

In addition to Cricket South Africa revoking the accreditation of five journalists, in another of humiliation for CSA, Graeme Smith reiterated that he had not accepted the job of director of cricket at the organisation despite a Sunday report suggesting it was a done deal.

“Contrary to media reports I have not been appointed Director of Cricket by CSA,” Smith said. “As previously advised I withdrew my application for the role. I am, however, in ongoing discussions with CSA, but I still have real concerns, which I have reiterated to them.”

Smith was interviewed by CSA in November but publicly withdrew his application because he believed he couldn’t work in the perimeters set out.

“I would love to have taken on the role,” Smith said in a statement. “However, despite my obvious desire to make a difference, during the long and, at times, frustrating process over the last 10 or so weeks of discussions, I have not developed the necessary confidence that I would be given the level of freedom and support to initiate the required changes.”

Banning journalists on Sunday – CSA’s latest public faux pas – came barely a week after the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) won an arbitration hearing with costs against CSA after the latter illegally put the former into administration in September.

On Sunday CSA revoked the accreditation of five leading cricket writers – Stuart Hess (Independent), Ken Borland (Citizen), Neil Manthorp (SABC), Firdose Moonda (Cricinfo) and Telford Vice (Cricbuzz.)

By the end of the day, after Hess took to social media to relay the situation, causing a huge backlash, the five were reinstated. But the damage to the CSA’s increasingly Stasi-like reputation was done.

Maroe and the CSA’s response took an even more bizarre turn on Monday when the CEO tried to explain the situation in an interview on 702 radio station.

“Journalists are not being silenced at all,” Moroe told 702. “We will be engaging – in fact we have started engaging with these journalists and their editors in trying to find commonality in terms of how cricket is being reported.

“The one issue we have as CSA is that we are not being given the opportunity to comment on the affairs of CSA. Their access was revoked because we have tried on numerous occasions to sit with them, so that we can say: ‘guys, we are not happy with how you are representing us to the public. We are not happy with their reporting.’

“We said to all of them, ‘please come and sit down with us so that we can understand why we, as CSA, are not afforded an opportunity to comment on some of the articles you have been writing about us, because your facts are misplaced and misguided.’

“We feel that they are misleading the public and we don’t have an issue with anybody criticising us.”

Moroe’s statement simply underlined the strong-arm tactics the organisation is using to silence its critics. It did little to help his case and his statement was further undermined when Hess, Borland and Manthorp responded on social media.

“Well this isn’t true. I was never called by anyone from Cricket SA to have a sit down about what I was writing,” Hess said.

Borland’s withering response was cutting: “Unless Mr Moroe has been trying to communicate with me telepathically, I have had no indication that @OfficialCSA want to meet. I have yet to be told about any meeting. I haven’t even had a phone call or e-mail from @OfficialCSA.”

Manthorp wrote: “Nobody from CSA has contacted me. No fact has been disputed or corrected in any article I have written in the last year. Never been invited to any meeting. The gateman at Newlands told me my accreditation has been cancelled.

“I would like to see or hear one shred of evidence that someone from CSA tried to contact me. Where, when and how. You know, facts…”

The South African Cricketers Association (SACA), which represents professional players in the country, expressed concerns about CSA’s attempts to silence critics.

SACA itself has been critical of CSA and has brought a High Court Application against CSA in an attempt to stop a proposed restructuring of the professional game.

“It’s a sorry state of affairs when attempts are made to silence respected journalists for writing about the ongoing problems in the game,” SACA chief executive Tony Irish said in a statement. 

This is not however dissimilar to what SACA has had to endure over the last nine months, during which we have been barred from CSA sub-committees, denied access to critical information necessary for us to represent the players and had our agreements breached with impunity.   

Many of the concerns we have are not even related to the High Court application, yet CSA continues to refuse to address them,” said Irish. “In the last week, there are added concerns relating to ‘unknown selectors’ selecting the Proteas team and the barring of cricket journalists from matches. It is clear to us that things are getting worse, not better.

On behalf of the 310 professional cricketers which we represent we are now left to publicly implore the Directors of CSA to exercise their fiduciary duties by acting to deal with these issues and to protect the game from further damage. 

The players not only care deeply about the game but also understand that their careers depend on its health and sustainability. From a players’ point of view we, therefore, want to see solutions to the current problems, and for the game to be returned to a healthy position as a matter of priority,” concluded Irish.

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) came out in defence of the journalists.

“Sanef believes CSA’s actions will have a chilling effect on the media’s ability to cover all aspects of cricket, not just what happens on the field of play, but also what happens behind closed doors where the sport is administered,” the Sanef statement read.

“CSA’s actions smack of bullying, are unacceptable and must be fiercely resisted in order to preserve the independence of the media and journalists’ ability to report without fear or favour.

“Moroe’s statements are deeply concerning. Journalists must be allowed to do their job of holding those in power accountable without fear of intimidation or that they will be prevented from doing their job. Moroe and CSA have a duty to respect the independence of journalists without resorting to bully tactics. This is bound to have the opposite effect of what CSA and Moroe would want to achieve.

“CSA, and sports bodies as well as sponsors in general, should refrain from trying to influence coverage through intimidation tactics. Accreditation should also not be unilaterally withdrawn without proper and transparent consultation with news organisations.

“Sanef encourages robust and thorough news coverage of sport, including the administration of cricket and other sports.

“The way CSA has managed its conflict with the media is also concerning considering that South Africa will be hosting England for a much-anticipated Test series in less than a month. The media will not relent in exposing the failings of cricket administrators in preparation for what should be a major sporting event.”

CSA later issued an almost nonsensical statement in an attempt to defend its actions and claw back some public support.

“The Executive of Cricket South Africa fully acknowledges the recent events in the media space and, despite months of experiencing unmediated (sic) attacks, including of a personal nature, we acknowledge the severity of the current mood towards our brand.

“We take the opportunity to unreservedly express our intention to fully address the current situation in the media. To this end, we commit to meet with the editors of the respective newspapers to address the current impasse.

“As the custodians of cricket in SA, we are grateful for the unwavering support of our many stakeholders, and in particular the partners and sponsors and their clientele who collectively sustain this great sport.” DM

This article was updated with comment from SACA at 4.40pm.

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