Free State Cricket boss admits accommodation for black players at stadium wasn't suitable

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Former Knights and Proteas leg-spinner Eddie Leie.
Former Knights and Proteas leg-spinner Eddie Leie.
Louis Botha/Gallo Images
  • Free State cricket executive officer Johan van Heerden said the black academy players who stayed at the Mangaung Oval was a temporary arrangement.
  • The players staying at the ground was raised by former Proteas and Knights spinner Eddie Leie during his Cricket for Social Justice and Nation-building testimony.
  • Van Heerden said the accommodation situation was something he wasn't proud of.

Free State Cricket chief executive officer Johan van Heerden admitted that academy players who stayed at the Mangaung Oval in 2019 were black, but the arrangement was a temporary one.

Van Heerden was testifying at the resumption of the Cricket South Africa Cricket for Social Justice and Nation-building hearings where he was responding to Eddie Leie's and Thandi Tshabalala's earlier testimonies on the same platform.

In his testimony, Leie had mentioned that black players who were staying at the Mangaung Oval, while white players were provided with better accommodation.

Van Heerden said the accommodation arrangement wasn't something he was proud of, but one that helped the players get to the next level.

"The board said we're not allowed do this, but they were at the stadium and they didn't have to pay for transport to get to nets," Van Heerden said.

"It was something that happened and I'm not very proud of it. It wasn't done with any malicious intent.

"It was done to see how we can help them get to the next level. It was private, but it wasn't five-star accommodation

"I don't think there was a white player there. I can't say that, but it was never meant in a bad way."

"Have we ever thought that it was the best possible solution? Probably not and I think by looking at those photos."

Van Heerden said the on-stadium accommodation idea was flighted by then academy coach and former Knights seamer Dillon du Preez on the basis that some players were going to struggle to go in and out of Bloemfontein.

Van Heerden said the quarters were located at the old gym at the downstairs Western Pavilion at the stadium.

"The time when the accommodation was renovated was when the academy coach was Dillon du Preez and he requested that we assist on a short-term basis for players who could not get into the university," Van Heerden said.

"They weren't from Bloemfontein, but Kroonstad and other places where they'd have to travel in for the day and back.

"After that request, Free State Cricket used the old gym at the downstairs Western Pavilion and revamped it into accommodation.

"It wasn't permanent, but to assist the players from a short-term perspective to see if they would qualify to get contracts

"It had TVs, they had brand new beds and it was very neat at the time they moved in, with the arrangement that they clean it

"They had DStv, a small little kitchen, along with showers and toilets, but it's not something I'd pride ourselves on in that we give kids accommodation of that nature. After they moved out, we never utilised it again."

During his testimony, Leie said the accommodation situation was distressing and this is something Van Heerden agreed with, while also highlighting the difference between Eddie and the academy players who used the accommodation.

"I can fully understand that. If I was a player, I also would have felt that way," Van Heerden said.

"Eddie didn't live there. He had a flat that was rented by the franchise that wasn't at the stadium, but it was different for him as he was a professional who was earning quite a lot of money."

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