Cricket SA urgently need a damage-limitation exercise

Ken Borland.

Ken Borland.

They might be responding quickly to tough economic times, but they’re quickly alienating their biggest asset – the players.

There are numerous high-level figures in local cricket who are of the opinion that Cricket South Africa (CSA) could be bankrupt in two years unless they come up with a radical change of course.

I suppose the positive news emanating from CSA and their Friday afternoon press conference is that, although they strongly refuted “rumours” of impending bankruptcy, they have recognised the danger and are making dramatic plans to improve their financial position.

Hence their restructuring of the domestic game.

Whether their dramatic ditching of the franchise system is actually going to alleviate their financial woes is also a matter of opinion, but CSA’s General Manager of Cricket, Corrie van Zyl, did point out that the biggest saving in the new system will be in terms of logistics – they have 90 fewer games to pay for in terms of umpires, transport and accommodation.

However, one vital piece of the puzzle that is consistently absent from CSA’s analysis whenever they talk about their austerity plans is the Mzansi Super League (MSL).

It’s almost as if they are trying to separate themselves from it, but nobody should forget that CSA have to actually pay for that tournament.

Given the lack of sponsors and major investment in the teams, as well as the fact that CSA actually had to pay the SABC to broadcast it rather than the other way round, their brainchild is a tremendous drain on the resources of the company.

CEO Thabang Moroe said that the MSL had suffered a loss of about R80 million in its first year and that the forecast over the next four-year cycle is that that loss will grow to R209 million.

Funnily enough, when Acting Chief Financial Officer Ziyanda Nkuta talked about Project 654 – CSA’s plan to cut their forecast deficit of R654 million to R250 million – she was not including the losses from the MSL, she later admitted.

The MSL is the elephant in the room for CSA and my worry is that the bubble has already burst for T20 leagues; apart from the IPL, none of them are making a profit.

CSA also claimed the players’ union – the South African Cricketers’ Association – have been fully consulted on the restructuring.

Unsurprisingly, SACA issued a rejoinder shortly after.

I guess being “consulted” is a subjective matter but it does seem like all the financial implications of the restructuring are not clear yet.

SACA have perhaps been treated in a similar fashion to all the affiliates’ CEOs, who met with CSA over the last two days, but by then the new system was already a done deal.

Moroe proudly announced that all the CEOs had asked him to relay the message that they “fully support the changes”, but as one CEO said to me: “The decision was already taken so we don’t have much of a choice but to support it. By not consulting with the CEOs before the board made the call, we basically had no choice but to confirm our willingness to try and make it work”.

Fortunately, the new system will not be in place yet for next season, so the 12 new provinces don’t have to frantically assemble new teams, sponsors and kit for October.

But at the moment, SACA seem especially feisty about fighting this restructuring and there has even been talk of going the legal route to overturn the decision.

Because many of their members will be taking a knock financially, it is clearly a material change to the Memorandum of Understanding they have signed with CSA.

If one is to be kind, one could give CSA 10/10 for effort in terms of trying to react to the troubled economic times they – along with every other business in this country, and cricket in general – find themselves in.

But their management skills and willingness to consult and take on board what their most important stakeholders are telling them leaves a lot to be desired.

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