CSA must realises just how low cricket’s reputation is

2012-03-17 00:00

THE report of Judge Christopher Nicholson has offered cricket in this country the chance of a fresh start, but will the board of Cricket South Africa take it?

Their form in this matter is not good. They have botched every decision ever since the Gauteng Cricket Board raised the issue of Majola’s behaviour during the IPL tournament that was held in this country in 2009.

There is no reason to believe that the board will start making sensible decisions when, as a group, it faces extinction if the recommendations contained in Nicholson’s report are accepted. Let us hope, however, that the exigency of the situation will prompt the board into appropriate action for the first time since this painful saga began.

The first thing the board should be doing is to put pressure on Majola to resign so that his successor can be installed in office as soon as possible. When one considers the pressure put on past officials of CSA to resign in circumstances where accusations of fault were highly subjective, it beggars belief that Majola should be allowed to enjoy a highly paid leave of absence while this matter drags on for what could be an interminable period.

The board is faced with two urgent matters. The first is to find a suitable replacement for Majola and the second is to determine the way forward that takes into account the recommendations of Judge Nicholson.

It is unthinkable that there is any scenario that would allow Majola to continue in office. Whatever happens in any future legal proceedings against Majola, he has shown himself to be unsuited to a position of such responsibility — something that was confidently predicted in this column as far back as 2003.

Given the Majola problems, the last thing CSA needs to do is to replace him with any individual about whom any doubts exist. It is important that CSA realises just how low cricket’s reputation is among its customer support base. When two of its three main sponsors are a small producer of cooking oils and a hitherto unknown insurance company, it must be clear to the board that it has been deserted by the mainstream of SA business.

The risks that were taken with Majola’s appointment cannot be taken with his successor.

When Ali Bacher indicated that he wished to step down as chief executive in order to concentrate on the 2003 World Cup, his most obvious successor was David Emslie, who ran cricket in the Eastern Province. Had Emslie been given the job then, CSA would not be in the dreadful mess that it is today.

Sadly, in those somewhat distant days it was felt by many that Bacher’s successor should not be a white man and Emslie did not get the job for which he had all the qualifications.

Emslie’s time at Eastern Province cricket has been one of continued improvement in all aspects of that province’s cricket. Success on the field had been matched by an excellent record in transformation. In an area where potential sponsors are not thick on the ground, Emslie has continually found businesses that are prepared to put money into EP cricket.

At a time when the national body has run short of sponsors, Emslie’s strengths in this regard with his unimpeachable integrity should not be ignored.

One of the less desirable traits that Majola developed was his manipulation of the resources of CSA in order to establish his personal hold over the provinces. Whether it was money or the allocation of major matches, the provinces became beholden to Majola in the same way that serfs once regarded their landlord. In this way Majola became master of all he surveyed until the provinces were at risk if they took him on, as the Gauteng Cricket Board found to their considerable cost. This must never happen again.

Above all CSA needs the safe pair of hands, which Emslie can provide at the helm of its ship. CSA is fortunate that he would be available as an interim chief executive if Majola cannot be persuaded to resign, but this would not be an ideal situation. Things move too quickly in the modern world and an organisation as complex as a national sporting body ought to be able to fill the most important post in its structure without undue delay.

The other problem that the board faces is what to do about itself. The Nicholson report left no doubt that the board should not continue to operate under the existing election and management structures. The current board, comprising provincial presidents and elected office bearers, is unlikely to vote itself into immediate extinction. Life at the top has been too cushy for them to pursue that option.

In any case neither the board nor the minister of sport can leave cricket without some sort of sort of interim guiding light, however dim.

The Nicholson report recommended that independent directors should play a much larger role at CSA board level. If the current board is to depart the scene with any semblance of credibility it must plot the path towards the establishment of a new board that is free of provincial pressure and racial bias. This is not an easy task and it may be beyond the ability of the current board, in which case their most honourable option would be to hand this task over to an independent commission.

Whatever the current board does, it could not have continued with A.K. Khan as its interim president. This is the man whose commission bungled the opportunity to sort out Majola early on in the affair, as an extract from the Nicholson report shows: “In a moment of candour, Khan said the following during the proceedings of his commission: ‘If you look at my opening remarks, [our task] is to protect the CSA brand and the integrity of the individuals concerned’.” The truth of the matter was not a priority. His resignation from all matters cricket is the first positive step emerging from CSA ever since the Majola affair began. Khan, at least, stepped down with his dignity intact.

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