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Cricket news - CSA forced to apologise after disparaging Tweet against Momentum by board member

Representational Image: Momentum pulled out as sponsor of the Proteas men's side citing administration issues with CSA.

Representational Image: Momentum pulled out as sponsor of the Proteas men's side citing administration issues with CSA.

CSA stretched the boundaries of how bad things could get for the game in the country still further on Wednesday when it was forced to apologise to a departing sponsor in the wake of a damaging late-night tweet by a board member - who now faces disciplinary action.

Momentum, a financial services group, said on Tuesday it would not renew most of its wide-ranging sponsorship agreement with CSA when the current contract expires at the end of next April. All that will be left of a deal worth the equivalent of USD 1.2-million a year to CSA, which currently encompasses men's ODI and franchise one-day cricket as well as support for the game at age-group and developmental level, will be funding for South Africa's women's team until 2023.

"Momentum has expressed that they are not satisfied with the current state of affairs at CSA regarding governance and other reputational issues," the company said in a release.

"There are matters that are concerning at CSA and as a partner to CSA we have to keep them accountable," Carel Bosman, the company's head of sponsorship, said in a television interview.

At 11.35pm (South Africa time) on Tuesday, Eugenia Kula-Ameyaw, one of CSA's independent directors, tweeted: "Momentum forgets that we invest hundreds of millions in Momentum in our SOE [state-owned enterprises] and pension funds. I remember asking for the BBBEE [broad-based black economic empowerment, and affirmative action policy] certificate in my other board. Just check before you make an irrational decision."

She was challenged on Wednesday morning by another poster, Dean Koen, who wrote: "That exact response is why all sponsorship should be withdrawn. The game of cricket is not about you or the board but rather all players and more importantly the development of the game."

Kula-Ameyaw replied with: "I agree fully with you on that core group which is players. Without players there is no cricket. You missing the point that Momentum gets business from the players, fans, citizens. I was happy that they fund the women's team though it's not transformation but marketing."

She later deleted her first post, but it has been widely circulated. Consequently, CSA had to issue a statement in a grovelling attempt to clean up the mess. Cricbuzz understands that happened only after and as a result of Momentum making known to CSA their unhappiness about Kula-Ameyaw's tweets.

"CSA sincerely apologises to Momentum for the unfortunate and unwarranted tweets made by one of our board members in her personal capacity," the release quoted acting president Beresford Williams as saying. "CSA wishes to reiterate that Dr Eugenia Kula-Ameyaw did not act in her professional position as a non-executive board member of CSA.

"While we respect the personal views of all South Africans, CSA wishes to distance itself from the articulations made by Dr Kula-Ameyaw on Twitter. We further wish to reiterate that CSA does not ascribe to the views expressed regarding Momentum and we sincerely value the benefits Momentum and all our sponsors bring in making cricket accessible and inclusive for all South Africans."

The release said CSA is "taking this matter very seriously" and that "in light of the reputational damage potentially caused" the members council - its highest authority - had reported the issue to the social and ethics committee. CSA promised that "the necessary corrective action will be taken".

Among the "specific duties" of the social and ethics committee, CSA's website says, is that it "must promote and monitor ethical behaviour of the members council, the board of directors, employees, sponsors, broadcasters and commercial partners, in particular, paying attention to the following aspects: conflicts of interest; confidential information; compliance with relevant laws; workplace conduct; stakeholder relationships; public communication; employee wellness; business courtesies and gifts; non-compliance with prescripts; internal and external fraud; and collusion".

Kula-Ameyaw's blunder surely means she has fallen foul of that rule. Whether she has done so seriously enough to be found guilty of delinquency, and consequently removed from the board, is unclear. But at the least she should expect a lecture on her online conduct.

"As part of its ongoing efforts to improve the reputation of CSA, the organisation's management will be re-educating all its internal stakeholders on better understanding its social media policy and to ensure employees across all levels understand the value afforded by sponsors and supporters," the release said. CSA had apologised to Momentum separately, and "remains forever grateful for Momentum's sponsorship and the fruitful relationship both organisations have enjoyed for almost 10 years".

It's not the first time Kula-Ameyaw has embarrassed the game. During an online CSA press conference on August 28 she told reporters: "What I don't like about cricket is they don't predict how long they will play. Football is 45, 45 [minutes]; then you are done. I only watch the highlights of cricket, not the whole game. I don't have time for that."

CSA announced Kula-Ameyaw's appointment on May 19, along with that of Dheven Dharmalingam - who was installed as chair of the social and ethics committee after the previous incumbent, Steve Cornelius, last month became the sixth board member to resign since December. Awkwardly, Kula-Ameyaw is also on the committee.

A perspective more in touch with the realities of the game's dire situation - pre, during and post the pandemic - came from the South African Cricketers' Association (SACA), which issued a release later on Wednesday that quoted president Omphile Ramela as saying: "The current economic environment is heavily constrained due to the Covid-19 impact and consequently many businesses are reviewing their partnerships. The sporting community is not immune to the impact of the current economic hardship.

"Domestic cricket, in particular... had already seen a decline in sponsorship funding and it is therefore imperative for cricket to use this crisis to re-invent the sponsorship business model of the game in a way that gives confidence to the sponsors and creates space for value to be derived from cricket."

The release said: "The decision of Momentum to exit the game at the end of their current ODI sponsorship agreement is regrettable, but their concerns regarding the governance of cricket are shared by SACA."

Andrew Breetzke, SACA's chief executive, was quoted as saying: "I spoke to [Bosman] today, and thanked him on behalf of our members. Momentum has been committed to our game since 2012, and in addition to sponsoring ODI cricket in South Africa, they pioneered the Pink Day ODI [to raise awareness of and funds for the fight against breast cancer] together with CSA... which has become a leading event on South Africa's sporting calendar."

Momentum's healthcare division, the release said, "remains an important sponsor of SACA members, and their role in providing players with medical aid cover is critical to the well-being of professional cricketers in South Africa".

Happily, some people in the game in this country still have a grip on what really matters. Unhappily, they are not in positions powerful enough to stop cricket's slide into crisis.

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