New cricket plan will cost a billion

Cricket SA chief executive Thabang Moroe and Tony Irish of Saca are at loggerheads over the proposed new format Picture: Sydney seshibedi / gallo images
Cricket SA chief executive Thabang Moroe and Tony Irish of Saca are at loggerheads over the proposed new format Picture: Sydney seshibedi / gallo images

Court papers reveal the extent of revenue loss if proposed format is implemented, writes Luke Alfred

Cricket SA could incur losses of nearly R1 billion in its current four-year budget cycle – 2018 to 2022 – according to explosive court papers lodged by the SA Cricketers’ Association (Saca) in the Johannesburg High Court in May.

After exhausting all other avenues, Saca has taken Cricket SA to court to get it to reveal the financial underpinnings of its decision to restructure the domestic game from the start of the season after next.

They believe that the financial benefits of restructuring are “untried and untested”, according to the court papers.

“Notwithstanding Saca’s requests, Cricket SA has not made available the relevant information, nor the operational planning, that would permit an assessment of its claims [that restructuring has financial benefits],” says Saca in its court submission.

“Most importantly, despite its assertions to the contrary, Cricket SA has not engaged in any consultation process, whether meaningful and constructive or at all, with Saca about the restructuring.”

Such restructuring will result in about 70 members of Saca losing their jobs.

The restructuring proposals involve adding six new first-class provinces to the current six franchises, meaning that 12 provinces will now contest the three domestic first-class competitions.

At the same time, the current 15-team semi-professional strata of domestic cricket will be abolished.

The provinces that will be afforded first-class status in the new format include those sides that are currently “junior partners” to the larger franchises.

The six new franchises are Boland, Border, Easterns, Griquas, North West and South Western Districts.

There is a possibility that the six could be joined by Limpopo and Mpumalanga at a later date, according to the proposal.

Despite the fact that Cricket SA’s deficit figures have fluctuated – sometimes radically – over the past six months, it has made public the figure of R654 million. In April, it announced a raft of “austerity plans” to address the shortfall.

Such “austerity plans”, it said at the time, were an attempt to address “dwindling broadcast numbers … as well as an unstable sponsorship focus globally”.

But the figures on which the austerity plans are predicated are dangerously under-inflated, argues Saca in its court papers.

On page 68 of the 234-page submission, for example, it points out that the figure of R654 million doesn’t take into account losses from the Msanzi Super League (MSL), nor the likely decrease in the “per match” values of Cricket SA’s current overseas broadcast rights agreement.

“If the figures for the MSL and these per match values were both included, the four-year deficit could amount to close to R1 billion, and this could well give rise to the future financial collapse of the game of cricket in South Africa,” the association argued.

The SA Players’ Association was formed just before the 2003 Cricket World Cup and has historically had an itchy relationship with Cricket SA. This has improved or worsened over the years depending on personnel and circumstances, but it has never been as antagonistic as it is now.

Tony Irish, the chief executive of Saca, and Thabang Moroe, his counterpart at Cricket SA, clearly don’t see eye to eye and the relationship has worsened significantly under Moroe’s stewardship.

Indeed, Saca has all but ceased to play a role in the governance of South African cricket. It used to sit on three Cricket SA subcommittees – finance, cricket and the chief executive’s committee, with either voting or observer status – and now sits on none.

Cricket SA was approached via email last week for comment, but it declined to give any.

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