South African cricket supporters shouldn’t be fooled by Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) “dynamic new structure” after they got rid of Proteas head coach Ottis Gibson and all of his support staff at the weekend.
Thabang Moroe, the governing body’s chief, believes that appointing a “team manager” who reports to a director of cricket, who in turn reports to the CEO, brings SA cricket “into line with best practice in professional sport”.
To their credit, the administrators don’t proclaim this to be a revolutionary step and Corrie van Zyl, who’ll serve as the acting director of cricket, even admitted to The Citizen that the position of “team manager” is basically still a head coach who’ll have a few added admin responsibilities.
But any individual who unconditionally accepts this major change is either oblivious or in denial of the political climate the game has operated in for the last three years.
That’s even evident in the very first sentence of the announcement, where CSA state that the new appointments are to “ensure an effective manner of cricket governance and greater accountability to South Africans”.
It may sound gloriously wholesome, but I’ve never heard other professional sporting bodies talk like they’re some sort of government institution so regularly as CSA does.
More worryingly, the new structure feels very much like a shift to greater central control.
Moroe and co could argue that a team manager could still be an independent, headstrong individual.
Yet having the most free-thinking person managing the Proteas won’t mean squat if the man he reports to – the director of cricket – becomes of proxy of the CEO.
It’s not like Moroe has done and said things in the past that alleviate such fears.
At the end of 2017, he instigated a tense stand-off with the South African Cricketers’ Association (Saca) while a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the parties was being finalised.
Moroe insisted that the revenue sharing model had to change because “change is definitely needed and it’s unfair on those unions that work so hard to develop players and then lose them, what are these franchises doing in their own provinces? We might not even consult Saca”.
He added: “The players are our employees and in the corporate world, when you are an employee, you just get an e-mail saying ‘this is the new direction, this is the way it’s going to go’. A trade union doesn’t have a say in our view of how our company should be run and how we engage with trade unions.”
The agreement was eventually signed months later.
CSA have eroded their cash reserves to launch the Mzansi T20 Super League (MSL) and then granted the television rights – the lifeblood of South African sport – to the cash-strapped SABC in a deal that many observers still believe had no money involved.
In April, Moroe pushed for the re-implementation of a selection veto power for himself, which would’ve allowed him to interfere in team picks.
Saca had actively campaigned for abolishing of the practice over a decade ago after the drama of former president Norman Arendse’s tenure.
And now, CSA and Saca are in court over the federation’s decision to restructure domestic cricket, which could see approximately 70 professional players lose their jobs.
The saga has been dogged by CSA’s unwillingness to remotely engage constructively with the players’ union, while Saca also argues that Moroe and co’s R654 million projected loss for the next four years isn’t remotely accurate as it discards several budgetary items such as the MSL.
Moroe is clearly a man with strong, possibly even inflexible views.
And that should make all feel uneasy over this latest venture.