The or­gan­i­sa­tion run­ning the game in this coun­try may have played it­self into a los­ing po­si­tion by dawdling over the price of the broad­cast rights and hav­ing to set­tle for a lot less in the end

Financial Mail - - FEATURE - Luke Al­fred and Tris­tan Holme

The fi­nal episode in Cricket SA’S (CSA) lat­est cri­sis played out at Sand­ton’s Maslow Ho­tel last Wed­nes­day. Among those present were CSA board mem­bers, over­seas fran­chise own­ers of the T20 Global League (SA’S first foray into in­ter­na­tional T20 cricket) and, serendip­i­tously, Mul­ti­choice CEO Im­tiaz Pa­tel.

The pur­pose of the meet­ing, os­ten­si­bly, was to no­tify own­ers that CSA would be fir­ing CEO Ha­roon Lor­gat the fol­low­ing day, but that there was no cause for alarm — in­deed, it was busi­ness as usual.

There was a sense of lit­er­ary sym­me­try to the show­down, in part be­cause it was Pa­tel — not Lor­gat — who had been the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil’s (ICC) pre­ferred can­di­date to take over from Mal­colm Speed as its CEO in 2008.

At the time Pa­tel wob­bled, and fi­nally rejected the of­fer as Mul­ti­choice moved heaven and earth to keep him. It paved the way for Lor­gat to run the ICC — the­o­ret­i­cally, the sport’s most pow­er­ful or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Fast-for­ward to July 2014, and Lor­gat’s ICC cre­den­tials per­suaded the CSA board to hire him, after the ICC de­cided against re­new­ing his con­tract. CSA’S board, full of Lor­gat praise singers, brushed aside those urg­ing cau­tion.

The num­bers were ger­ry­man­dered too. In the wake of the Ger­ald Ma­jola bonus scan­dal, it was rec­om­mended that the newly con­sti­tuted post-ma­jola CSA board should have an even split of cricket peo­ple and in­de­pen­dents.

But this was un­ac­cept­able to the SA Sports Con­fed­er­a­tion & Olympic Com­mit­tee, which ar­gued that “cricket needs to be ad­min­is­tered by cricket peo­ple” — so the mooted sixsix board split was di­luted to just four in­de­pen­dents. An op­por­tu­nity for a gen­uine gov­er­nance over­haul was squan­dered.

The CSA board then hired an in­de­pen­dent head­hunter to find a new CEO. CSA’S act­ing CEO at the time, Jacques Faul, was asked to ap­ply, and rugby supremo Jurie Roux was also men­tioned. Lor­gat was in the queue, but was by no means first choice.

Even­tu­ally, un­der the watch­ful eye of the board and the four in­de­pen­dents — Dawn Mokhobo, Louis von Ze­uner, Vusi Pikoli and Nor­man Arendse — Lor­gat was lev­ered in.

They ar­gued he was a fine ad­min­is­tra­tor who would bring the ap­pro­pri­ate checks and bal­ances to an or­gan­i­sa­tion bleed­ing money. In­con­ve­nient facts, such as his de­par­ture from the ICC, were swat­ted away.

Lor­gat did bring his tech­no­cratic skills to CSA — the or­gan­i­sa­tion was trans­formed and the board’s de­ci­sion ap­par­ently vin­di­cated.

Two years after he was hired, at CSA’S AGM in Septem­ber 2015, Lor­gat’s con­tract was ex­tended by four years. After all, CSA was now on a firm fi­nan­cial foot­ing and the freespend­ing fran­chises had been reined in, even if Lor­gat some­times found him­self in un­seemly spats with jour­nal­ists.

How­ever, CSA’S trans­for­ma­tion into a su­per-bu­reau­cracy came at a cost. Staff com­plained about Lor­gat’s ar­ro­gance. Some even han­kered after Ma­jola’s warmth and hu­man touch. It was ef­fi­ciency in a freezer.

“[Lor­gat] was very good at man­ag­ing up­wards, at man­ag­ing his board in other words. He ran a good meet­ing and was hugely im­pres­sive,” says a former CSA in­sider.

“His prob­lem was that he didn’t man­age down­wards. His peo­ple skills were ex­cep­tion­ally poor.”

In 2016, Lor­gat and the CSA in­ner sanc­tum be­gan talk­ing about a lo­cal T20 tour­na­ment to ri­val the In­dian Premier League. This would make CSA fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent of cricket’s power-broking bul­lies, In­dia and Eng­land, re­vi­talise a flat do­mes­tic prod­uct and, by of­fer­ing top dol­lar, en­sure lo­cal play­ers pledged their al­le­giance to the Proteas.

But plan­ning for the T20 Global hit early snags.

Lor­gat was se­cre­tive about op­er­a­tional mat­ters, marginal­is­ing CFO Naa­sei Ap­piah. The or­gan­i­sa­tion shut­tled through two con­sul­tan­cies be­fore set­tling on Or­tus Sport & En­ter­tain­ment — an ob­scure out­fit with no track record — to take the broad­cast rights to mar­ket.

Sud­denly the board be­gan to have qualms about Lor­gat’s in­ten­tions and his cav­a­lier spend­ing.

When the Fi­nan­cial Mail wrote about the head­winds in July, CSA pres­i­dent Chris Nen­zani re­fused to re­spond to five straight­for­ward ques­tions. “CSA does not in­tend to re­spond to queries based on in­for­ma­tion sourced from face­less in­di­vid­u­als,” he said.

Two months later, the hap­less Nen­zani was at the Maslow Ho­tel last Wed­nes­day, ex­plain­ing to T20 Global own­ers what he and other di­rec­tors had failed to do. The next day, CSA cut ties with Lor­gat.

It seems no ac­ci­dent that Pa­tel, who might once have taken Lor­gat’s ICC job, was there. And it is surely more than co­in­ci­dence that CSA and Su­per­sport, which had en­dured a frosty few weeks with Lor­gat, are now talk­ing about the lo­cal broad­cast rights sale.

But the de­lays have meant the value of broad­cast­ing rights has plum­meted. CSA isn’t en­tirely happy, but at least Lor­gat is gone. Su­per­sport has ef­fec­tively stared down CSA, and a broad­cast­ing deal is im­mi­nent.

Had the board acted against Lor­gat sev­eral months ago, it would prob­a­bly have got a healthy price for the T20 Global’s in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal rights. In­stead, it shilly-shal­lied, driv­ing down the price.


Ha­roon Lor­gat: Ul­ti­mately proved to be the wrong ’un

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