Thursday, 5 August, 2021

West Indies tour in jeopardy after CSA reneges on agreement

The Proteas may not be the country's officially recognized team. Photo - Getty Images

By Telford Vice, Apr. 18 (Agency): South Africa's upcoming visit to the Caribbean could be in jeopardy in the wake of Cricket South Africa's (CSA) highest authority reneging on their agreement to adopt a new constitution.

West Indies are due to host them for two Tests and five T20Is in June, but by then the Proteas may not be the country's officially recognized team.

A government release on Sunday said sports minister Nathi Mthethwa had been "left .. with no further option but to exercise his rights in terms of section 13(5) of the Sports Act". That law allows Mthethwa to strip federations of the privilege of calling their team's national sides and to stop funding them.

On April 10 a CSA release said a "majority of the members' council [had decided to] accept the principle of a majority independent board led by an independent chairperson". At a special online meeting on Saturday the council, comprised of the presidents of CSA's 14 provinces and associates, refused to do what it had said it would do: it voted against the motion.

That means cricket in South Africa remains structurally unsound. Seven of the 12 places on CSA's board are reserved for the members' council, leaving the door open for cronyism and the kind of poor governance that has led to cricket losing major sponsors and damaging its relationship with broadcasters.

An interim board, established with government help and appointed after the elected board laden with council members was persuaded to resign, has been in place since November. The new board's chief mandate is to fix CSA's faulty memorandum of incorporation (MOI). On April 10 it seemed that was about to be achieved. On Saturday the glimmer of hope was dashed.

Council member Donovan May - a member of the dysfunctional elected board that was pushed out of office - proposed that Barry Hendricks, the president of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), be allowed to address the meeting despite the fact that Hendricks was in attendance as an observer only. Hendricks demanded that the new MOI be sent to SASOC "for approval before it is signed off", and threatened to "suspend, fine and terminate the membership" of CSA if that did not happen.

SASCOC, which serves as an interface between sport and government, is itself beset with reputational damage caused by financial, corruption, sexual harassment and governance scandals. But it has the authority to do what Hendricks said it could.

So Mthethwa's hand is being forced. Sunday's release spoke of his "disappointment at the failure of the CSA delegates to adopt the revised MOI". Clearly, the government sees the members council as the rotten apple in the barrel: "The revised MOI ... constituted an agreement between the CSA members council and the interim board. Accordingly, any failure to ratify such an agreement entered into by a duly authorised members council representative can only be interpreted as acting in bad faith." Mthethwa "will be taking the necessary steps required to exercise his rights in terms of the law prescripts next week".

If he decides CSA's teams are no longer the country's national sides, CSA could lay a complaint of interference with the ICC. Should the ICC concur, it could suspend CSA's membership.

Then Mthethwa looks like the bad guy and the members' council would have the ammunition to get him to back down. But Mthethwa has previously explained his actions to the ICC, which has been silent on the issue. That amounts, many would think, to the ICC's tacit approval of what Mthethwa has done so far. And the ICC has enough precedent of state involvement in cricket in Pakistan and India to cover itself and justify backing Mthethwa.

The members' council has a clear vested interest - which is also a clear conflict of interest - in continuing to make its own rules and mark its own homework. It is notorious for resorting to stalling tactics to cling to power and its trappings. In an echo of what happened on Saturday, in August 2012 CSA pledged to "implement the letter and spirit of the recommendations contained in the Nicholson report". That has yet to happen, not least because Nicholson calls for a majority independent board.

Mthethwa and the ICC are the only figures in this saga who can neuter the members' council, which must be done for the game to emerge from years of increasing ruin. It's time to see who blinks first. (Times of India)