Sport Analysis

Cricket in Crisis: CSA obstructionist leaders cling to power while cricket races towards a cliff

CSA interim board chairperson Stavros Nicolaou. (Photo: Supplied) | Sport Minister Nathi Mthethwa (centre). (Photo: Flickr / GCIS)
By Craig Ray
20 Apr 2021 3

Cricket South Africa’s Members’ Council are running out of time and excuses to accept amendments to their governance structure, which could result in the Proteas facing international expulsion.

In the battle for the future of cricket, a handful of seemingly delinquent provincial presidents continue to hold out against some straightforward governance changes.

These changes are, in the most simple sense, designed to give Cricket South Africa (CSA) a stronger, more independent governance structure by amending its Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI). 

It requires that provincial presidents, who make up the Members’ Council (MC), cede some power. Fewer of them will be able to serve on a future board, as the cornerstone to the change is a majority of independent directors. This has been a sticking point as it means fewer elected officials have direct access to CSA’s money and power. 

On Tuesday the MC made a statement, essentially complaining they were put under duress and didn’t have enough time to “deliberate the final draft of the MOI”.

That is a stretch considering this process has been ongoing for nearly six months. It is unclear which of the 14 provincial presidents endorsed the press release as they continue to hide in secrecy. 

Five of the MC voted for the amended MOI but eight did not. The only assumption is that not all MC affiliates approved the press statement on 20 April. 

“Following the recent Special General Meeting (SGM) conducted by CSA, the MC are of the opinion that not all facts were presented by the interim board (IB) in terms of the vote that recently vetoed the adoption of the proposed MOI,” the statement read.  

“The refusal by the IB to afford Members’ Council sufficient time to deliberate the final draft of the MOI with their respective affiliates was a catalyst to this impasse.

“The time span of less than 24 hours to consider such an important document is in our opinion unreasonable. In addition, the duress and political pressure displayed prior to the voting at the SGM was highly unorthodox, unfortunate, and unethical.” 

The statement also lists four “contentious provisions in the new MOI”. They are:

  • The margin between the Independent Directors and Non-Independent Directors
  • Independent chairperson
  • Objectives of the Company
  • Affiliates to mirror CSA MOI

“The MOI final draft was received by the MC on Friday, 16 April at 00h38,” the statement read.  

“The notice of the meeting was finally received at 20h26 on the same day. This hardly gave the MC any time to send, discuss and approve the final draft of the MOI with the actual custodians of cricket, which are the affiliates. Hence there was a plea for a seven-day extension, which was rejected by the interim board.”

Despite this claim, at least five affiliates were comfortable voting on the new MOI. 

Earlier correspondence undermines Members’ Council statement 

It’s also curious that correspondence in Daily Maverick’s possession, between CSA acting president Rihan Richards, representing the MC, and interim board chairperson Stavros Nicolaou, on 15 April clearly indicates that all hurdles, barring one, had been cleared.

“At the time of writing this response to yourself we had requested whether Members Council had any additional inputs or contributions to make to the proposed MOI and to the best of our knowledge we had not received any further contributions,” Richards wrote on 15 April to Nicolaou. 

“The one glaring error is the definition of the Non-Independent Director as the definition was not extracted from the originally approved MOI of 02 February 2021, but from the MOI that Bowmans  (a law firm) proposed, which Members Council vehemently disagree with. 

“For ease of reference the definition we would request to be incorporated is the same one in the MOI approved on 02 February 2019 which read: Non-Independent Director means a non-independent board member of an Affiliate Member, who is nominated by the Affiliate Members for election at an Annual General Meeting or Members’ Council Meeting for appointment to the Board as a non-executive Director.’

“We are currently canvassing whether the defective notice period would be accepted by Members Council and whether the meeting would be virtual or physical. We will communicate the responses before 20h00 tonight.”

Nicolaou responded on the same day: 

“Dear Rihan, many thanks for your earlier mail of 15 April 21. 

“It is particularly encouraging and a strong signal that there have been ‘no further inputs or contributions’ received from our MC colleagues and that there is only one area/definition that you have requested be adjusted, i.e. that of the ‘non-independent director’, which I’m pleased to inform you we have amended accordingly. 

“I believe that subject to your revision of clause 1.1.45, the aforementioned definition, we have landed in a place where we now have a final MOI document that we can present to the SGM on Saturday for approval. 

“In the interim I await your response on the other formalities i.e. Finalisation of agenda. Virtual, hybrid or physical meeting, Defective notice.

 “Looking forward to your further responses.” 

From this correspondence, it appears that the MC’s press release of 20 April, is in conflict with the facts.

SGM stalemate and potential government suspension

Last Saturday, at what was supposed a formality by the MC to adopt the amendments, descended into farce as eight presidents baulked. The meeting was open to media and other observers and at no stage did disgruntled MC affiliates state that they “needed more time to deliberate the final draft of the MOI,” as claimed in their subsequent media release. 

They did try to hide behind “process” and orchestrated an address to the gathering by South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) president Barry Hendricks. He stated that Sascoc needed to accept the amendments first before being sanctioned by the MC and that Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa was overstepping his powers. 

This was a desperate act, especially as Sascoc had done nothing in the preceding months of negotiations between the MC and an interim board appointed by Mthethwa last October. 

Mthethwa witheringly dismissed Sascoc’s claims at the meeting and the secret ballot (at the MC’s insistence) took place. 

Five presidents voted against the changes and three abstained (a shameful act of cowardice considering what was at stake) meaning a 75% majority could not be reached to amend the MOI.

 As a consequence, Mthethwa will invoke powers afforded him by section 13 (5) (c) of the National Sport and Recreation Act if the MC does not accept the MOI amendments by 5pm on Tuesday.  

The consequence is that CSA will no longer be recognised as cricket’s official governing body in South Africa and that it cannot award national colours. It effectively puts CSA in breach of International Cricket Council (ICC) regulations, which will almost certainly lead to suspension and isolation. 

Players apologise to public on behalf of delinquent leaders 

In an extraordinary statement from the South African Players Association (Saca), which represents over 300 professional players, they apologised to the public for CSA’s boardroom issues.

“Government intervention in the sport will have dire consequences, the full extent of which we do not yet know,” the statement signed by Proteas One-Day skipper Temba Bavuma, Test skipper Dean Elgar, women’s captain Dane van Niekerk, and Saca president Khaya Zondo, read.

“The right to represent South Africa may be withdrawn and the ICC may suspend Cricket South Africa.  These outcomes will in turn impact touring, broadcast rights and sponsorship deals. Ultimately the financial viability of the game will suffer and cricket at all levels will be severely prejudiced.

“We apologise for the actions of our administrators who have undermined and betrayed your (the sponsors’) commitment to the sport. We are aware that many of you have engaged Saca directly over the past 12 months, confirming your support for us, the players, and for that we thank you.

“And finally, to the most important stakeholder in the game – the public – we ask that you continue to support cricket. It is the most wonderful game, and we are immensely proud to represent you on the field. We implore the Members’ Council, interim board, Sports Ministry and Sascoc to resolve this impasse.” DM


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All Comments 3

  • So why don’t name the MC’s that objected, and the Sascoc members that rocked up, interfering, talking uninvited. Articles like this means nothing if these shameful and cowards are not named. Wonder if they know the difference between a cricket ball and a baseball ball.

  • Have the MC representatives that are opposed received that mandate from the boards in their unions? I see no evidence in any article that indicates anything other than that these MC representatives are self-serving. If that is true, why no outcry from their constituents?

  • It is shameful how the the processes of politicised social transformation have been used to gain control of the assets and resources of various sporting codes and open the floodgates of theft and corruption. Consequently, all of society becomes poorer as the selectively affirmed take the loot & run