South African cricket faces showdown talks as strike threat looms

Updated: Dec 05, 2019, 11:30 IST | AFP | Johannesburg

CSA will hold a special board meeting on Saturday following a week of drama and controversy sparked by the withdrawal of media accreditation of five leading journalists

Representation picture
Representation picture

Johannesburg: South African cricket faces a crucial weekend ahead of separate meetings of Cricket South Africa's board and the country's players' association -- less than three weeks before the start of a Test series against England. CSA will hold a special board meeting on Saturday following a week of drama and controversy sparked by the withdrawal of media accreditation of five leading journalists.

According to a media statement, "important decisions will be made" at the meeting. It is not known whether one of the decisions will be to finalise the appointment of a director of cricket. Former Test captain Graeme Smith announced on November 14 that he had withdrawn his interest in taking the job because he was not confident that he would have the freedom to act in the way he wanted. But Smith confirmed on Monday, following a weekend newspaper report, that he was once again having discussions with CSA. "But I still have real concerns, which I have reiterated," said the former opening batsman.

The SA Cricketers Association (SACA) announced on Wednesday that it had scheduled a meeting of its executive at which possible industrial action, which could include a players' strike, would be discussed because of an alleged infringement of the commercial rights of players by CSA. CSA responded on Wednesday evening by claiming that it had already moved to stop the use of players' names and images in an Indian-based fantasy game. The withdrawal of accreditation of the journalists -- which was reversed the same day -- appeared to be linked to criticism of CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe, who has reportedly been granted wide powers by the board. Following a furore, Moroe apologised, initially describing the incident as a "mishap" which he later admitted was an "erroneous process".

The second comment came after CSA was summoned to a meeting by Standard Bank, one of cricket's main sponsors, to discuss issues of "governance and conduct". CSA was strongly criticised in an open letter by Norman Arendse, a former board president, while Shirley Zinn, one of five independent directors, resigned, telling the Daily Maverick website that she had done so "after all sorts of efforts to... try and effect change at board level." SACA has been in conflict with CSA for most of Moroe's term, firstly as acting chief executive and subsequent to his full-time appointment in July 2018.

There is a pending court action over what SACA claims is CSA's failure to consult with the players and failing to provide detailed financial information in terms of a memorandum of understanding between the two bodies. The latest dispute is over what SACA claims is the unlawful use of players' names and images in a fantasy game based on the ongoing Mzansi Super League Twenty20 competition. SACA chief executive Tony Irish said in a statement on Wednesday that "CSA has flagrantly disregarded our agreements". Irish said Friday's meeting was "likely to include the possibility of the players taking some industrial, or protest, action."

He said strike action had always been considered an option of last resort, "but things have reached a stage where we must ask what SACA and the players are expected to do when the leadership of CSA continues to ignore our legitimate concerns." But Kugrandie Govender, chief commercial officer of CSA, said she had already acted to stop the use of player "attributes"". She added: "I would hope that we can meet as soon as possible with SACA to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion." The first of four Tests against England starts in Centurion on December 26.

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