The undoing of the GCB

2012-02-04 00:00

WHEN the Indian Premier League (IPL) came to town in the autumn of 2009 I had an uneasy feeling that by hosting this tacky circus harm would be done to South African cricket. I could not predict what that damage might be, but it seemed that anyone doing business with a scoundrel like Lalit Modi, chief executive officer of the IPL, was asking for trouble.

Might it be necessary to consult your lawyer when entering into a complex agreement with Modi involving millions of dollars and the rights of all your provincial stakeholders and those of the mother body?

Should one exercise a little care before committing to the IPL on the basis of a skinny heads of agreement drawn up by their lawyers?

Should the final agreement between Cricket SA and the IPL be concluded in a foreign country in the absence of your president or any other member of your own board or your own lawyers? Above all, would it be wise to agree that any dispute arising out of this agreement be subject to the laws of India and decided in the courts of Mumbai?

Would it not be prudent to discuss the details of this agreement with the provincial unions who would be expected to implement the hosting of the IPL? Finally, in the foreseeable circumstances of any dispute between one of the provinces and the IPL, would you not feel obliged to assist that union in such a dispute and show them the relevant parts of such an agreement?

Apparently not when one is Gerald Majola, the CEO of CSA, who said: “The United Cricket Board sees good corporate governance as non-negotiable”, and this after his chief financial officer had embezzled millions of rands.

Apart from the reputation of CSA, the principal damage in the wake of the IPL that one could not foresee was eventually done to the Gauteng Cricket Board (GCB). Days after Majola had signed the heads of agreement it became apparent that the IPL wanted to assume rights that threatened the rights of box holders at every cricket ground in the country.

Of all the provincial unions it was only the GCB, the best run and comfortably the most solvent, that dared question the authority of CSA to obliterate the rights of its stakeholders. Only the GCB refused to back down to the demands of the IPL.

All their attempts to enlist the help of Majola in the resolution of this dispute were in vain. Majola deigned to walk the 300 metres from his office to meet officials of the GCB, but he refused to entertain any sort of meeting with them or show them relevant sections of the infamous IPL agreement.

In the end Paul Harris, in his capacity as an independent member of the executive committee of CSA, assisted the GCB to prevail upon their box holders to back away from their rights and various IPL matches, including the final, that were subsequently held at the Wanderers.

After the IPL was over, the GCB wrote to CSA complaining of the behaviour of its CEO. This was when the trouble really started. An internal memo drafted in vaguely immoderate language was leaked to CSA by a disaffected GCB board member, whose nine-to-five boss is Gerald Majola.

Dr Nyoka, then president of CSA, was enraged by the cheek of his own province and irrationally stood behind Majola without bothering to ascertain the facts of the matter. He demanded that the GCB apologise to Majola, failing which he threatened to take international cricket away from the Wanderers (to the detriment cricket’s local supporters and its dominant commercial base).

The GCB, rightly, refused to apologise. International matches were taken away from the Wanderers and distributed to other provinces whose craven silence on this matter was driven by their own selfish interests and fears of similar retribution. The GCB resolved to pursue their legal remedies under CSA’s arbitration provisions and, if necessary, in court.

In the meantime a group of “concerned cricket lovers” began to make plenty of noise about the policies of the GCB.

In reality this was a group whose support was too small to enable them to achieve the control they sought of the GCB. They saw in this dispute an opportunity to bend ears within CSA by making allegations that the GCB had defaulted on the transformation of cricket in the province.

CSA then invoked the support of the minister of sport, who appointed mediators to resolve the dispute. Surprisingly, draft statements were exchanged through the mediators that would have settled the dispute without an apology from GCB.

With peace in sight, Barry Sjkoldhammer, chairperson of the GCB, capitulated without discussing the matter with his board. Fearful of continued recriminations from CSA, he withdrew the legal action and signed an agreement that amounted to the board backing down over the IPL issue in return for the restoration of international matches to the Wanderers. But chaos ensued in Gauteng over the issue of transformation when the “concerned group” was given a say on the board.

Ultimately the CSA appointed a commission — without any legal basis — that recommended a complete re-structuring of the GCB constitution that removed the voting power of the long established clubs. CSA moved to implement the commission with the “concerned group” taking effective control.

The CEO of the GCB is now Cassim Docrat, who was imported from KZN, and its president is Ray Mali who lives in the Border. They have less connection to Gauteng cricket than a piece of chewing gum stuck to the shoe of a fan on the Wanderers embankment. For doing a job that his predecessors have done without remuneration for over a hundred years, Mali draws a salary of R1 million per annum plus a free car.

Dr Nyoka has at least had the grace to apologise for his catastrophic lack of judgment in supporting Majola, but the damage has been done. Of the Gauteng board members who stood up to CSA, none remain in cricket.

• Ray White is the former

president of the United Cricket Board.

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