Possible industrial action by players as CSA turmoil deepens

Possible industrial action by players as CSA turmoil deepens
Thabang Moroe, CEO of Cricket South Africa. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

There is a possibility that leading South African cricket players will embark on industrial action in protest against the already under-pressure Cricket South Africa.

The latest setback for Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief executive Thabang Moroe and the missing-in-action president Chris Nenzani came after the South African Cricketers’ Association (Saca) made public a dispute over the use of players’ image rights.

With a Test series against England looming later in December 2019, it is the most crucial time for the game in this country. Losing leading players to industrial action would cripple the sport.

“Unfortunately, Saca has again had to commence a formal process against CSA in respect of yet another situation in which the commercial rights of players in the MSL [Mzanzi Super League] have been ignored,” Saca chief executive Tony Irish said in a statement.

“CSA has used, and allowed the use of, the names and images of players in association with a fantasy league game (called Dream11) related to MSL without any rights to do so and despite Saca having relaying to CSA that such use is unlawful. The situation has continued despite our concerns raised on repeated occasions, leaving us little option but to take formal steps.

“Saca has also, and simply as a precaution, requested CSA to obtain clearance from its anti-corruption unit to ensure that this use of players in a pay-to-play game does not in any way constitute an association of the players with gambling, or encouragement of betting practices, which are not permitted under CSA’s anti-corruption code. As far as we know, this request has been ignored by CSA.

“This is yet another instance, in a growing line of instances, where CSA has flagrantly disregarded our agreements and, over the last week or so, failed to address Saca’s resulting concerns. We now feel that enough is enough.

“Saca has called a meeting of its Players Executive Committee and its Management Board for Friday 6th December 2019. At this meeting we will again be discussing the manner in which Saca and the players are being treated by CSA.

“This discussion is likely to include the possibility of the players taking some form of industrial, or protest, action. Saca has always considered strike, and other similar forms of industrial action, to be a very last resort and in Saca’s 17 years of dealing with CSA to date not one day of cricket has ever been lost to industrial action.”

CSA responded to Saca’s dispute over image rights through chief commercial officer Kugandrie Govender:

When the matter was raised by Saca last month, I notified the sales agency of Dream11 to cease the use of the player attributes until a resolution was reached on the issue and conveyed this to Saca.

I also requested a meeting between ourselves and Saca to discuss what payments are applicable, and to discuss the issue of Dream11 being a betting organisation or not. I attach emails sent to Mr Irish for the sake of removing any doubt as to the start of the engagement on this matter.

It is not our intention to short-change anyone that needs to be compensated, least of all players who are our very own. To this end, I would hope that we can meet as soon as possible with Saca to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion.

As far as the anti-corruption issue is concerned, we have established that Dream11 is a skill-based fantasy gaming platform and not a betting/gambling platform. For the sake of clarity, it primarily operates in India where sports betting/gambling is illegal and where fantasy gaming was declared legal by the High Court.”

Daily Maverick understands that Saca will address Govender’s response on Thursday. Daily Maverick also understands that when Saca responded to Govender’s initial reply, CSA then went quiet and carried on using the player rights.

Saca is already embroiled in a legal battle with CSA about the decision to expand local cricket structures from six franchise teams to 12.

Saca argued that CSA unlawfully made the decision without consulting Saca despite repeated attempts to engage Maroe and Nenzani to address the matter internally. Saca went to the Gauteng High Court compelling CSA to justify its decision. The case is still ongoing.

CSA is also in crisis mode having suspended three key employees — Clive Eksteen (head of commercial), Corrie van Zyl (director of cricket) and Naasai Appiah (chief operating officer) — without a public explanation.

To make matters worse, CSA approached former Proteas Test skipper Graeme Smith to become director of cricket even though Van Zyl has not formally been removed from his position. Van Zyl’s disciplinary hearing is still ongoing. Smith has confirmed he was approached.

Adding to the high drama, which also includes CSA having no selection panel and convenor for the coming England tour, Moroe took the poor decision to revoke the accreditation of five leading journalists, who have been critical of the bumbling organisation.

They were barred from attending MSL matches last Sunday, which led to massive fallout. Leading sponsor Standard Bank, the Ministry of Sport and Recreation and the South African Editors’ Forum (Sanef), demanded explanations, forcing Moroe to back-track and issue apologies. The journalists had their accreditation reinstated.

Independent board member Professor Shirley Zinn resigned in the wake of the accreditation scandal as well as a leaked article to the Sunday Times, which claimed Smith was the new director of cricket. Considering Van Zyl is still technically in the position, it was highly irregular.

Zinn told Daily Maverick that those were the last two “straws that broke her back” as she highlighted the state of poor corporate governance at CSA.

CSA has called a “special sitting of its board” on Saturday.

“This will be immediately followed by a media conference to communicate the outcomes and next steps to South Africa via the media, including but not limited to the director of cricket role, team selection processes for the England tour, and all other CSA issues relevant to the South African public,” Maroe said. DM


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