There is something very, very strange going on at World Cup headquarters. It started many months ago when teams due to play fixtures in Zimbabwe were understandably curious about where they might be transferred to in the event that the ICC decreed that the country was not safe.
Innocent enquiries were made to the CWC organising committee and although they spoke often of a “contingency plan”, there were never any details provided. Fair enough, we thought. It was still a long way off.
But as Zimbabwe’s domestic crisis worsened through the last quarter of last year, the “contingency plan” became more and more mysterious – not clearer and clearer, as most would have imagined.
At the beginning of this week CWC communications director, Rodney Hartman, said the “contingency plan” had now fallen by the way side and was no longer an option following the ICC delegation’s decision that Zimbabwe was safe.
Just for the sake of clarity and interest, we thought it would only be right to find out what the “contingency plan” had been, when it still existed. Because obviously the various Unions would have been informed and placed on stand-by.
Pietermaritzburg was an obvious choice because it had only been scheduled to host two matches. This is what Cassim Docrat, CEO of KwaZuluNatal, had to say: “There has been no discussion with us on this issue, either formally or privately but one would think that the CWC organisers have a contingency plan in place.” That’s what we all thought.
How about some of the bigger unions, then? David Emslie of EP said: “We haven’t heard anything but I wouldn’t imagine that they would give us a game anyway as we already have five. But I think some of the smaller unions would like one if there was an extra game going.” Indeed. But let’s finish with the ‘big’ unions, first.
Newlands? Western Province CEO, Arthur Turner, said: “A contingency plan has never been discussed with us. I don’t think we could logistically host another game anyway, even if that situation should arise.”
Alan Kourie, Gauteng’s acting CEO, said: “There has been no talk of a contingency plan with us, but if they were switching games I’d think the smaller unions would get first option. But nobody has approached us and asked if we would like to have another game.” Elise Lombard, CEO of Northerns, said: “As an affiliate we don’t have any contingency plans because the directorate came from CWC. As a venue we wouldn’t mind another game. England against Zimbabwe would be nice.”
How about Kimberley, then? The De Beers Oval would be perfect. “I know nothing of a contingency plan, we have not been officially approached by CWC and there has been no unofficial talk,” said Griquas MD, Brian Kidson.
North West, then? Potch must surely be on the list? “No, there has been nothing put to us in terms of a contingency although we did request an extra game, should one become available, about a year ago. But we got no response to that request,” said John Openshaw, general manager.
We’re running out of options, now. Boland? Picturesque Paarl, maybe? “At the moment we have received no request official or unofficial and we have never received any correspondence in that regard in the past,” confirmed Boland president, Henry Paulse. Bloody hell.
Easterns? Benoni may have it’s detractors but nobody can claim it’s not organised. “We understand that there will be no altering of the venues for the World Cup and that the only action would be that Australia and England would face a fine and lose their points if they don’t play in Zimbabwe. There was a contingency plan before but during the last week that had changed,” said Charlene Smith, marketing manager.
Ah ha! So there WAS a “contingency plan” At last! Sadly, still no details were available.
Goodyear Park was heavily rumoured to be in line for the England-Zimbabwe match at one point but Seppi Lusardi, Free State’s GM, was giving nothing away this week: “I can’t divulge any information, speak to Ali Bacher if you want comment on that. I have no comment.” His sentiments were echoed, albeit more politely, by Border’s CEO, Reunert Bauser. “I don’t think the venues can comment on the contingency issue. Those decisions are made by CWC I’m not going to comment.”
In the absence of any hard information it is a journalists job to speculate and to make as much use of the available information as possible. I believe there was never a “contingency plan”. How could one have existed without the knowledge of those supposedly involved in it?
Zimbabwe’s matches were never going to be moved barring a virtual civil war in that country dangerous enough to produce a unanimous agreement from all six countries due to play there that it was unsafe to do so. That, frankly, was never going to happen.
Whoever says sport and politics don’t mix is kidding themselves to the point of humiliation and ridicule. It is the very same government politicians who say that sport should be “left alone” that have applied massive pressure to the CWC organising committee to leave Zimbabwe’s matches untouched.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.