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The most damning indictment yet of the parlous state of the game in South Africa came from within on Monday. An open letter from former Cricket South Africa (CSA) president Norman Arendse, who has also served as the organisation's lead independent director and is among the most senior administrators in the country, exploded into public view like a supernova as the sun was setting on an already extraordinary day.
The missive details the problems the game faces in the unsparing language Arendse deals with daily as one of South Africa's top Senior Counsels. It only added to the gravity of the moment that Arendse, himself one of the most polarising figures in cricket, could understand and articulate how acute the situation had become.
"It is painful to pen this letter," Arendse begins. "However, there is just too much at stake to permit our great sport of cricket to fall any further. Silence would be much more painful. Therefore, I write this open letter of appeal to our cricket family members, the CSA board, the CSA members' council [CSA's highest authority, which is comprised largely of the presidents of the 11 provincial boards] and the paid CSA administrators to act before it is too late. I suspect, however, that the horse has bolted, and that we are beyond the precipice, and into the abyss.
"As a former CSA president [in 2007 and 2008], and until just over a year ago, the CSA lead independent director, I have the utmost respect for prescribed procedures and protocols to be followed when differences arise within the cricket family. It appears, however, that for several reasons that have manifested publicly, the family differences cannot and will not be resolved through the prescribed route.
"What prompts me to say this is not sourced from any insider knowledge or some whistle-blower; they are sourced in CSA's own public pronouncements and written media statements: the restructuring of our domestic competitions; the concentration of power in the hands of the CEO [Thabang Moroe] to make key appointments (approved by the CSA board); the failure to make key board committee appointments including the failure to appoint the independent lead director (after more than a year since the election of the board; the suspension of senior executive officials; the ongoing dispute with SACA [the South African Cricketers' Association, who are taking CSA to court over a proposed restructure that could cost 70 professional players their jobs]; and the recent dispute with Western Province Cricket which ended in a humiliating loss... at arbitration [where CSA's decision to suspend the Western Province board was declared unlawful].
"The last straw must surely be the most recent banning by CSA of several highly respected cricket journalists [whose accreditation was revoked, then reinstated after a public outcry] who collectively have decades of experience in cricket. (Some of them I have disagreed with both privately and publicly, but it never entered my mind to suggest or propose that they are banned from the game). Their banning is unconstitutional, and unlawful, and must be deplored by all cricket-lovers."
And all that before Arendse got to what makes cricket, and everything else, go round: "The future sustainability of cricket is also at grave risk given the public CSA pronouncement of a projected shortfall of hundreds of millions of rands." CSA have estimated that they could face losses of up to USD 44.9-million by the end of the 2022 rights cycle. SACA put that number closer to USD 68.6-million.
"We had over [USD 41.2-million] in reserve. These reserves have now dwindled dramatically, and with the unsponsored Mzansi Super League [that lost USD 5.4-million last year, which could go up to USD 6.8-million this year], these reserves will likely be depleted shortly." Arendse doubted that Moroe "is capable of arresting CSA's decline, let alone turning around the organisation to put it on a more secure and sustainable footing".
"All of the above leads me to one very sad conclusion: the CSA board has simply abdicated its fiduciary responsibilities by failing to act with the due care, skill and diligence required of it by the Companies Act, and the CSA constitution. To the extent that the CSA members' council are aware of the above-mentioned shortcomings and failures of governance, they too must share responsibility, and be held accountable. I... call on the board and the members' council to meet urgently to consider the matters raised in this letter, and to hold the CEO (and those who have been complicit) to account."
Arendse signed off by saying he had shared the contents of his letter with Vusi Pikoli, a former CSA board member who chaired the social and ethics committee, and said Pikoli - a former head of South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority - "endorses the sentiments expressed".
Not long before Arendse's bombshell hit, the South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) issued a statement condemning the treatment of the five journalists who had their accreditation revoked and demanding CSA apologise to them. "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." SANEF took a dim view of Moroe's admission on radio on Monday that the "journalists' accreditation was revoked because the organisation was unhappy about their reporting on CSA and the sport. Moroe's statements are deeply concerning."
That came before another statement, this one from Standard Bank, one of CSA's few remaining major sponsors, who demanded a meeting on Monday "in the wake of governance and conduct media reports which have brought the name of cricket into disrepute".
And so the sun set on another strange day in the annals of South African cricket - just like the day before it. The next day? Can't hardly wait.
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