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Cricket news - CSA, SASCOC at loggerheads over forensic report

CSA is refusing to bend the knee to SASCOC, citing legal implications, thereby creating a stalemate.

CSA is refusing to bend the knee to SASCOC, citing legal implications, thereby creating a stalemate.

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) have demanded free access to the full report of a forensic investigation into CSA's affairs that could snare powerful figures in the game in wrongdoing. Until they see the report on their own terms, SASCOC say, they won't name the task team that will temporarily sideline CSA's board in a bid to get to the bottom of multiple crises. CSA is refusing to bend the knee to SASCOC, citing legal implications, thereby creating a stalemate. Now what?

Not for the first time, South African cricket's journey towards honest, competent, responsible, transparent administration is stuck in the starting blocks. That CSA should be held to account by SASCOC, which has a record of mowing down sound governance practices like a shot-putter trying to run the hurdles, should come as a shock to the system. And all the while the cricket world is either crying about or laughing at the state of the game in South Africa.

"There can be no doubt that the public, current and ex-players, sponsors and stakeholders have lost all trust and confidence in the CSA board," Aleck Skhosana, SASCOC's acting president, told an online press conference on Thursday. "This is evidenced on a daily basis when calls are made for the CSA board to step down or step aside. SASCOC has a duty to listen to these calls, and to investigate the alleged issues and problems for themselves."

SASCOC made a move in that direction last week, when it told CSA to withdraw its board and key staff to allow a task team - appointed by the Olympic body - to probe cricket's problems: a development that could provoke the ICC to suspend CSA because it could be construed as interference.

That followed two meetings between SASCOC and CSA. "The second one was cut short when CSA refused to make available to SASCOC the much talked about forensic report," Skhosana said. "It was impossible for us to continue in a meeting when we don't have the report so that we may be able to read from the same slate and sing from the same hymn book."

CSA has offered SASCOC's board the report, but on condition that board members sign a non-disclosure agreement beforehand. SASCOC isn't happy about that, as Skhosana explained: "No reasonable person can effectively enquire into the affairs of CSA without having full access to the report, and without the assistance of legal and or forensic experts. None of us have investigative and forensic expertise and legal expertise. These things must be done by outside people."

CSA's highest authority, the members council, which is comprised of the presidents of the 14 provincial affiliates, examined the report at the weekend. But only after they signed NDAs. Skhosana found that logic faulty: "We cannot be certain that there would have been proper consultation with the members of the respective unions. How are they expected to obtain a proper mandate from their boards when they are not permitted to share the contents of a report, which they commissioned, with their boards? That is why the refusal to make the report available on an unrestricted basis is both irrational and unreasonable."

Skhosana said the members council would be represented on the task team, whose recommendations CSA would be expected to implement: "Should they fail to do so, then SASCOC will have no alternative to take appropriate measures to ensure compliance."

SASCOC has the power to put federations under administration, but Skhosana said that was not the intention in this case: "We are not interested in running the administration of cricket. We don't know anything about cricket. It must be run by the people who understand cricket, who have got passion and bona fides in terms of cricket administration."

But he made it clear CSA shouldn't push its luck: "We have given the CSA members council an undertaking that the report, once received, will only be discussed between the board and its advisory team and will not be published as SASCOC respects the rights of everyone implicated in the report. Should the report still not be forthcoming, then, unfortunately, SASCOC will have no alternative but to resort to other measures that I'm not going to deal with here."

Asked if CSA would comply with SASCOC's dictates, acting president Beresford Williams said: "We are in engagement with SASCOC, we've been engaged with SASCOC and we continue to engage with SASCOC. CSA had responded in detail to SASCOC around our position. I also want to state clearly that we have a fiduciary duty to cricket as board members.

"What has been resolved unanimously by the members council ... is that the forensic report they received will also be made available to SASCOC under the same conditions. Having said that, at this point we continue to stay committed to the dialogue and engagement. We even offered and committed to make the summary report available. We would provide the necessary breakdown by our legal representatives. That opportunity would be presented to SASCOC's board. That opportunity has been presented and we await their formal feedback."

Williams was asked similar questions twice more, and twice more he offered versions of the inconclusive, non-committal statement above. How CSA handles of the report is probably their only hope of retaining a shred of credibility in the wake a damning period of crisis and mismanagement. Why not publish it as widely as possible?

"On the advice of our legal representatives, we have been cautioned against releasing the report now," Williams said. "The board and the members council unanimously agreed that there is a huge risk of comprising future litigation. We are in legal process at the moment, and if there's any liability we as a board and as an organisation cannot shift the blame. We need look at what that liability is, and what are the consequences for the organisation and cricket in general."

Anne Vilas, the president of the Central Gauteng Lions, has previously criticised the decision not to release the report to the members council. She was part of the weekend meeting, and on Thursday she said: "I think we all have a better understanding of CSA's position that it's not in our interest to disclose the full gamut of the report. There are further investigations that need to be taken. We're mindful of the rights of all the people mentioned in the report. We need to be cognisant that we can't step on their rights. But further action will be taken if warranted."

Oddly, given what he had said earlier, Skhosana had understanding for CSA's stance on the issue: "We know that there are quite a number of legal issues that are contained in that report. There are contestations that will drag for a number of years, and it needs to be handled in the manner that you are suggesting. I'm sure we would also handle this in the manner that you are doing if it was a SASCOC report. Legal issues can cost a lot of money; they can collapse that organisation."

Skhosana had left the conference by the time it was made clear that the members council was pushing back against SASCOC's intervention by resolving that CSA's board and executive staff should remain in their positions, and that SASCOC should foot the bill for the task team.

Now what? Either SASCOC or CSA back down. Or this ends up in the courts. Who wins? Not cricket.

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