Sober up and sort it out

Some tense and inflammatory things have been said by all three sides in recent weeks about the embarrassing central franchise cock-up that has cost the game so much in terms of cash and reputation and, sadly, we do not appear to be on the verge of change.

An outbreak of common sense is desperately needed and someone needs to set the example to illustrate that compromise does not necessarily have to be as painful or as devastating as everyone seems to believe. Just look at the Eastern Cape.

The review committee set up by the UCB (which includes two prominent and respected individuals in former government minister Kader Asmal and legal beaver John Smith) has quite a job on its hands.

The onus should be on Cricket South Africa and the UCB (almost exclusively the same people) to set the example of reconciliation that needs to be followed. Having read far more pages of legal argument on this subject in recent months than I care to count – but it’s well over 700 – I am convinced that Griquas have a case for unfair treatment. “Unfair treatment” is not what the attorneys and advocates call it but my job is to translate their language, not repeat it.

In my considered opinion as a layman, Griquas presented a carefully planned, well-constructed case for the central franchise to be situated in Kimberley.

Unfortunately, also in my opinion, the CSA committee appointed to award the franchises did not give the proposal due consideration because they could not see beyond some stark realities. There are a mere 25 clubs in the Griquas region and air transport is limited.

Basically, the infrastructure is inferior to Bloemfontein’s – but that does not mean the decision should have been made in haste or predetermined.

That Griquas and the UCB came within days of appearing in the High Court is a sad indictment of the quality of some of the leaders of the game in the country. Others are caring, conscientious and accountable, but some simply cannot see beyond the end of their noses. They are involved in the game of cricket for what it can do for them, and the devil can take the rest.

I was in the Free State last week for a very important game of cricket. Afterwards a very important administrator stood at the bar of the President’s Suite entertaining a group of my colleagues while I wrapped up my final reports for radio and SuperCricket. He was in fine form.

He called me lots of names, including – when he was trying to be serious – ‘Neil Manfield.’ He used plenty of swear words and said I knew “nothing.” He then said, absolutely decisively, that I hadn’t even seen the relevant court papers because “there’s no way he could have.”

Well, I did. I read as much as I could because I actually care about resolving the issue for the good of the game in this country. The franchise system simply has to work and if Border and EP can make it work, then Free State and Griquas sure as hell can.

But then my colleagues told me of their evening and I started to despair once again. The administrator, who has been involved at the highest level for over a decade, has never made a single attempt to greet me, let alone have a conversation or question my motives or sources. Instead, he called me names.

Whatever the grown up version of knocking heads together is, Cricket South Africa needs to start doing it. Starting with a few of their own.

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