- Cricket South Africa’s Members’ Council is refusing to relinquish its control of cricket.
- The Members’ Council will not acknowledge the interim board assembled by sports minister Nathi Mthethwa.
- The presence of former CEO Haroon Lorgat on the interim board was an issue for the Members’ Council.
The optimism that had accompanied Cricket South Africa (CSA) over the last couple of weeks, since an interim board was announced towards the end of last month, has received a massive blow.
The organisation’s administration, once again, has been plunged into crisis.
On Thursday, the CSA Members’ Council, through acting CSA president Rihan Richards, refused to acknowledge the interim board, which had been set up by sports minister Nathi Mthethwa towards the end of last month.
The interim board, Richards says, would not be accepted as the vehicle running affairs in South African cricket.
With the entire previous board having stepped down under that governmental pressure, the interim board – chaired by Judge Zak Yacoob – was Mthethwa’s attempt to remedy the leadership crisis that has long plagued CSA.
There was, briefly, a sense that cricket was in capable hands again but this latest development has raised red flags again just days out from when England are set to arrive in the country for a limited overs series against the Proteas.
Mthethwa’s office has not yet responded to the decision from the Members’ Council, of which seven members are members of the previous board, but it is expected that the reaction from government will not be one of satisfaction.
The presence of former CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat on the interim board, Richards confirmed, was a significant factor in the decision.
Lorgat left CSA in 2017 following a breakdown with the board over his dealings with all things related to the T20 Global League.
Richards stressed, though, that Lorgat was far from the only reason for the decision from the Members’ Council.
The interim board was criticised for taking the running of cricket into its own hands, through key decisions and in its engagements with media, while not adequately consulting the Members’ Council, who Richards said were always meant to remain the body in charge of cricket.
“It’s more about the manner in which our concerns are being addressed as well as the attitude displayed when we raised our concerns,” Richards said in a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
“I do believe we did so in a professional and appropriate manner. We raised potential conflicts of interests related to other individuals as well on the interim committee and we also indicated clearly why we felt those individuals would have a big bearing (on matters).”
Richards would not divulge the specifics of the concerns around Lorgat’s place on the interim board.
According to the interim board, concerns over Lorgat’s involvement had already been cleared up in a meeting with the Members’ Council and Mthethwa on Sunday, but Richards said that was not the case and the concerns of the Members’ Council had not been resolved.
“It is the (interim board’s) stance that almost became prescriptive and almost a demand that we either appoint all as a collective and not actually addressing our concerns. That was the major reason for the breakdown in the relationship,” he said.
It leaves cricket in South Africa without any clear direction, presently. Mthethwa and government have used their power to appoint an interim board that, on Thursday, remained committed to its mandated work while the Members’ Council insists that the board has no authority.
“These people have never been appointed in terms of the Companies Act or the MOI, so in our opinion, they have no standing in CSA. As to the roles they’ll still be playing (given the statement that they’re soldiering on), I’d only be speculating. We have not confirmed their appointments as directors,” said Richards.
“The company is running. The members council is there and but there’s also a small board in place to ensure everything runs effectively.”
It is a disconnect that is further damaging an already battered and bruised CSA image, but Richards was adamant that the Members’ Council still had the best interests of the game at heart and that it was not about individuals.
“This is by no means a U-turn but a way to ensure that the process remains credible,” he said.
“We will be coming out very soon, once we’ve engaged with all relevant stakeholders, with a plan of how (cricket’s) matters will be addressed going forward.”
The response of the minister will be key to what happens next.
“Our position is very clear that we are not in conflict with the minister. There’s a misalignment between the roles and responsibilities and authority of the proposed interim board,” said Richards.
“We are naturally mindful of the rights granted to the minister in terms of the Sports Act. But it is also important to note what is our responsibility to the cricket public in general as well as the requirements of the ICC.”
The ICC’s constitution makes it abundantly clear that governmental intervention in the running of one of its member councils could result in suspension from international cricket.
That is surely the most pressing concern now and it is a risk that has been amplified by a possible stand-off with government.
The process of appointing the interim board was also something that the Members’ Council was involved with and that, too, has raised question marks over their objections to the personnel 13 days after their announcement.
In partnership with government, Sascoc and the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA), the Members’ Council was tasked with appointing three names to the nine-strong interim board.
“The only names we were aware of were our three candidates. The other names were never released prior to us,” Richards claimed.
“That I want to make very clear. At no stage before the announcement were we made aware of those names during the process.
“There was a process that we could follow in raising our concerns because that’s standard practice and that was a consolation for us at the time.”
Richards said that, since the announcement of the interim board, the Members’ Council had sought legal advice before acting, helping explain why it has taken two weeks before issues of Lorgat’s position had surfaced.
“If I had objected to the list of candidates, I would’ve given my personal view but that would’ve been unfortunate because I would’ve been unsure if my affiliates held the same reservations,” he said.
When questioned on the capacity of the Members’ Council to mend the current state of affairs given its recent track record in the governance of South African cricket, Richards acknowledged that he would have no issue stepping down should the need arise.
“This is not about the Members Council. The views were solicited from all the members and stakeholders to ensure that cricket is driven forward. It’s not just the 12-14 members on the council that made this decision. It was a broad, consultative process,” he said.
“We as the Members Council have reflected, and yes, I personally feel that – as one of the longest serving presidents in local cricket – need to take responsibility and that has happened. In the past, the Members’ Council’s voice was never heard. It was almost an attitude of acceptance and that’s the difference with this council.
“We’re not going tolerate – no matter what board comes in – things that we aren’t happy with. We’ll address matters directly and in a professional manner. We need to step up and start representing our affiliates and cricket in general.
“I’m sure (stepping down) would be an option if it comes down to that. I would have no problem to so if it was required of me. That was the big question that was asked to me – if there’s anything raised against me and I need to walk away, I’ll walk away.”