Last year, before the Cricket South Africa board was marginalised by a restructure which allowed chief executive Thabang Moroe to assume greater control and make operational decisions without having to defer to the directors, they voted to allow the first edition of the Mzansi Super League to go ahead on the proviso that it did not lose more than R40 million.
That was always going to be a tough task given there were just seven weeks in which to generate revenue before it started and that the players salary bill was already R48 million with a cap of R8 million per franchise.
The first edition of the tournament actually cost CSA around R80 million although that figure was almost certainly higher as there were several cost items which were allocated elsewhere in the annual financial report.
The decision to go ahead with the second edition despite little changing regarding income generation had an air of the gambler chasing his debts about it. But then, the MSL was always going to be a huge gamble with the long-term future and health of the game resting on its success or failure.
There was a time when all 11 provinces had a seat on the board which, along with the president, vice-president and a couple of others swelled to an unwieldy 15. There were no independent voices to calm the politicking and back-stabbing as each member did the best for his or her union while placing the national interest second.
The board was reshaped almost a decade ago but hardly streamlined numbering a round dozen, but at least there are now five independent voices alongside those elected from the provinces and the president and vice-president. They may just be the last hope in bringing to account those responsible for the actions of the chief executive they appointed. Thabang Moroe.
CSA’s ongoing High Court battle with the players union (SA Cricketers Association) has now lasted almost six months. Legal fees for SACA are approximately R1m – they are likely to be three times that for CSA.
The Western Province Cricket Association had their own president and board suspended by Moroe and unilaterally placed under administration for unspecified reasons. Desperate to defend itself, the WPCA also took CSA to the High Court. That dispute, too, remains ongoing with Moroe having suggested the New Year Test match against England could be taken away from Newlands.
Moroe suspended his three most senior administrators while investigations took place into a possible dereliction of their duties – for the non-payment of a rights fee to the players which only he, Moroe, was authorised to make.
One of the suspended trio, acting Director of Cricket Corrie van Zyl, was interviewed for the full-time position a week after his suspension by a CSA panel which included Moroe.
Finally (for now), the board presided over the decision to award the MSL broadcasting rights to the free-to-air but bankrupt SABC. There are very good reasons for wanting the ‘flagship’ tournament available to as many viewers as possible, but there are equally compelling reasons for wanting the tournament to be a success. It is hard to see how giving the broadcast rights away for a token fee will contribute towards that happening.
Strong indications from within Supersport suggest that the satellite broadcaster’s final offer to CSA before they partnered with the national broadcaster was in the region of R150 million – per tournament – for five years.
Moroe told a meeting of CSA’s Cricket Committee two months ago that he had ‘lined up a R1billion sponsor’ for the MSL, but nothing has been seen or heard about it since.
Perhaps the board aren’t aware of exactly what’s going on. Or even vaguely aware since the new CSA constitution does not require Moroe to seek their approval for day-to-day operations. Most of the above, however, hardly qualifies as day-to-day anything.
In the absence of any explanation or reassurance from Moroe or his recently appointed Communications team, perhaps it is time for the board to step in. It’s not just cricket supporters who are feeling alienated, it is – equally worryingly – sponsors.
Professor Shirley Zinn is one of the independent directors. She sits on a number of other boards, too, and clearly has a conscience amongst her other qualities. Earlier this month she resigned “with immediate effect” from the board of Shoprite. Although she refused to comment, shareholders drew the conclusion that it was in protest at the refusal of 78-year-old chairperson and controversial businessman Christo Wiese to act on calls for his resignation.
If nobody else can bring themselves to comment on the increasingly divisive behaviour of CSA’s CEO, perhaps she can. It might even be her fiduciary duty to do so. And the rest of the board’s, for that matter.
Chris Nenzani, (President), Beresford Williams (Vice President), Zola Thamae, Tebogo Siko, Donovan May, Jack Madiseng, Angelo Carolissen.
Independent directors: Mohamed Iqbal Khan, Dawn Mokhobo, Professor Shirley Zinn, Professor Steve Cornelius and Marius Schoeman
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