Opinionista Vince Van Der Bijl 2 February 2018

Cricket South Africa in the time of Donald Trump

Claims from Cricket South Africa’s acting CEO Thabang Moroe that the governing body makes all the money completely misses the mark and borders on being an insult to the players.

At a time when the president of the United States of America regularly makes instinctive nonsensical utterances, nothing should come as a surprise any more. And yet, it does. Take for example, the recent utterances by Cricket South Africa’s CEO Thabang Moroe.

Here’s an extract from an article published in The Citizen recently:

Speaking with CSA president Chris Nenzani alongside him, acting CEO Moroe said on Wednesday that CSA would be pushing towards plans to dictate to the Proteas what franchise they should play for and to renegotiate the revenue-sharing deal which has been in place with the players for several years.

We might not even consult SACA. The players are our employees and in the corporate world, when you are an employee, you just get an email saying ‘this is the new direction, this is the way it’s going to go’.

There is no room for a union to intervene if CSA decide to go in a different direction. There is nothing to stop us from moving away from revenue-sharing. CSA makes the money for cricket in this country and not the players’ union,” Moroe said in Port Elizabeth.

It seems somebody needs to state the obvious.

Globally, talented players and teams are the ones followed by fans. The players are the product, the fans the consumers. The board negotiates the TV deal and overall is in charge with the management of the income and thereby the game.

Players are a key asset who, through fan interest and love of the game, sustain the game’s growth and increased participation.

Disrespect the players at your peril.

As Cricket Australia found to their embarrassment after a protracted negotiation recently. Without the support and participation of the first-class players, there is no product from which to generate revenue. CA had to backtrack and resume their revenue-sharing model after the waters had been calmed.

A similar revenue-sharing model has been in place for 12 years in South Africa along with a good and sound relationship between CSA and the players producing consistently outstanding teams globally, which now could be compromised with this new approach, if it indeed becomes a reality.

SACA, the so called “players’ union” are their voice, not some antagonistic malevolent organisation trying to squeeze the board dry.

The recent series win against India is testimony to the strength of the players. That they have achieved this despite the board is testament to their character and the respect and love they have for the game, the fans and this country.

Yet even with the Proteas global stature, the CSA was unable to secure TV and media rights for their much vaunted Global T20 League. Despite trumpeting about how they make money, CSA lost money through the Global T20 debacle.

The financial pressure of that failed tournament has produced it seems this knee jerk reaction of showing the players scant respect in their proposed dealings with the players through their voice – SACA.

Instead, it seems as if the players are being played for the failures of the board. The players are not at fault that the CSA has to fork out for the portion of contract that was previously agreed upon. CSA had to honour at some level the contract that they had signed and needed to honour.

Moroe’s comment – “The only money we’ve lost is what we paid to players for not even bowling a ball” – shows lack of accountability for the demise of the failed Global T20 tournament and lack of accepting the board’s responsibility.

CSA are tasked to manage the national game for growth, sustainability and the future. For that they need to be an all-encompassing body.

While the CSA HP structure does a fine job in honing the skills of the very top talented selected players through camps and coaching; it must be remembered that the groundwork creating these Protea players is through the dedication the schools, families, communities, individual and passionate enthusiasts and coaches in the amateur game.

The quotes regarding CSA making the money are either made in ignorance or arrogance. It cannot go unanswered. I write not as an ex-player or ex-administrator. I write as a sports lover and a person passionate about cricket and this country.

Mandela said, “I am not your leader – I am your servant” when he first became president.

That statement and the soul of the normal South African of any background have sustained me with the belief that this country will find its way to be the amazing country it can be – a true Rainbow Nation.

CSA needs to retract the statement, apologise and develop a small committee representing everyone including broadcasters, players, sponsors, administrators (including recreational administrators or educators) and fans (the latter by research) – yes, and even government. This transforming group needs to have only three things in common – management competence, honour and a love for cricket.

Tim May at the MCC WCC meeting said that open trust and transparency between players, administrators and fans is the key to great cricket and great teams.

A team can only sustain itself in its own bubble, immune from outside, for just so long but unless it is sync with the selectors, administrators and their fans success will recede. That we know.

It is time those that leaders in sport and politics start to serve and make this country what is can be – the most magnificent integrated yet diverse country in the world. I must include Viva Cyril Viva!

Sport too can do just that. Just like the two teams, the Blitzbokke and the Proteas, who have captured the hearts of SA sports lovers with their skill, exuberance and teamwork and who have used diversity to produce a truly sustainable world-class teams year after year. DM

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