Pressure on Cricket South Africa (CSA) intensified on Monday after the official sponsor of the Proteas, Standard Bank, made it known that it is “gravely concerned about developments” at the governing body.
The federation, headed by controversial chief executive Thabang Moroe, is facing a severe backlash from various quarters after they revoked five prominent journalists’ accreditation to stadium events.
Following a swift outcry, the said individuals’ access was re-granted, though CSA steadfastly insist that it’s been subject to “several months of unmediated attacks” in the “media space”.
Yet that bullishness could now be toned down significantly after Standard Bank called for an urgent meeting to discuss “governance and conduct media reports which have brought the name of cricket into disrepute”.
As the custodians of cricket in SA, we are grateful for the unwavering support of our many stakeholders, and in particular the partners and sponsors and their clientele, who collectively sustain this great sport.
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) December 2, 2019
While the tight economic climate means no professional team can afford a loss of sponsorship, CSA’s financial position dictates that it simply can’t alienate the bank.
The federation has no sponsors for its Franchise 4-day Series, Mzansi Super League or Provincial T20 competitions.
One-day cricket sponsor Momentum has also scaled down its investment in CSA’s commercial properties.
The Proteas is essentially the only property still making money, a disconcerting thought given that CSA told a parliamentary portfolio committee earlier this year that it will make a R654 million loss over a four-year cycle.
“In recognition of the widespread interest in and support for cricket, we value the right of South Africans and the broader cricket community to know about developments within CSA, especially those that relate to governance and conduct,” Thulani Sibeko, Standard Bank Group’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement.
“Standard Bank is hopeful that we will emerge from the meeting with CSA assured that our concerns, and those of other stakeholders, will be addressed speedily.”
Meanwhile, the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) and the South African Cricketers Association (Saca) weighed in on the issue.
“Sanef believes CSA’s actions will have a chilling effect on the media’s ability to cover all aspects of cricket, not just what happens on the field of play, but also what happens behind closed doors where the sport is administered. CSA’s actions smack of bullying, are unacceptable and must be fiercely resisted in order to preserve the independence of the media and journalists’ ability to report without fear or favour,” the media organisation said.
In turn, Saca called the banning of journalists a “sorry state of affairs”, noting how the players union has been sidelined in a similar manner over the past months.
“This is not however dissimilar to what Saca has had to endure over the last nine months, during which we have been barred from CSA sub-committees, denied access to critical information necessary for us to represent the players and had our agreements breached with impunity,” Tony Irish, the outgoing CEO, said.