COR­RI­DOR OF UNCER­TAINTY

Cricket SA’S in­terim CEO seems to be do­ing all the right things — but the fail­ings of pre­vi­ous man­age­ment still hang heavy over the or­gan­i­sa­tion

Financial Mail - - FEATURE - Luke Al­fred Tha­bang Moroe Jac­ques Faul

Lo­cal cricket was sched­uled to re­sume last Satur­day with the new­fan­gled Sol­i­dar­ity Cup, a 36-over jam­boree fea­tur­ing three teams of eight play­ers each, cap­tained by AB de Vil­liers, Kag­iso Rabada and Quin­ton de Kock. The venue was to have been Su­pers­port

Park in Cen­tu­rion, with pro­ceeds go­ing to pro­fes­sional crick­eters stricken by Covid-19.

The match would have been tele­vised; the au­di­ence vir­tual.

The feel-good day was in­tended to sig­nal a slow re­turn to nor­mal­ity, al­low­ing fans to tem­po­rar­ily for­get about the pol­i­tics be­smirch­ing the game and en­joy the in­fin­itely more ed­i­fy­ing spec­ta­cle of their heroes hit­ting sixes in­stead.

Alas, af­ter an­nounc­ing the Sol­i­dar­ity Cup, Cricket SA (CSA) was forced to post­pone the event, pend­ing the nec­es­sary thumbs-up from the min­is­ters of sport, arts & cul­ture and health.

This is not the first time CSA has told the long-suf­fer­ing pub­lic that some­thing is about to hap­pen, only to dis­cover that it’s jumped the gun.

Cast your mind back three years, for in­stance, when CSA said it was get­ting into a joint ven­ture with Su­pers­port as eq­uity part­ner in a new tour­na­ment, only for the part­ner­ship to be aban­doned in a flut­ter of “he­said, she-said” ac­cu­sa­tions.

That tour­na­ment was the brain­child of then CSA CEO Ha­roon Lor­gat. It was called the T20 Global League (T20GL), and it was aban­doned late in the day, af­ter hav­ing had an auc­tion and an eye­wa­ter­ingly glam­orous launch at the Bulgari Ho­tel in Lon­don.

Lor­gat later fell on his T20GL sword (walk­ing away with R18m), ush­er­ing in the reign of Tha­bang Moroe, who was di­vi­sive and in­ef­fi­cient in a way no other CSA CEO has ever been.

Af­ter a litany of com­mer­cial er­rors, odd de­ci­sions and le­gal spats — with the SA Crick­eters’ As­so­ci­a­tion (Saca, the play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion), and West­ern Province Cricket — Moroe’s 2½ colour­ful years as CSA’S head hon­cho came to an end in early De­cem­ber, when CSA pres­i­dent Chris Nen­zani and the board be­lat­edly dis­cov­ered their co­jones and turfed him out.

The straw that ap­peared to break the camel’s back re­lated to the re­vok­ing of the ac­cred­i­ta­tion of five cricket jour­nal­ists, a sit­u­a­tion that led the SA Na­tional Edi­tors’

Fo­rum to weigh in, and civil so­ci­ety to voice its dis­ap­proval. It pre­cip­i­tated a grov­el­ling apol­ogy to the na­tion and cricket com­mu­nity, with Moroe say­ing in early De­cem­ber: “I look for­ward to new lev­els of en­gage­ment.”

Within three days he’d been shown the door.

At the time, a CSA press re­lease said Moroe had been placed on “pre­cau­tion­ary sus­pen­sion” on “al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct, pend­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion”. In a later re­lease, CSA promised that the Moroe mat­ter would be re­solved in six months.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, given CSA’S track record of un­der­per­for­mance on such mat­ters, the Moroe mat­ter wasn’t re­solved by June 6, prompt­ing Saca to give the or­gan­i­sa­tion a cheeky nudge.

Saca CEO An­drew Breet­zke was quoted in a press re­lease two days later, say­ing it de­fied be­lief that progress in the mat­ter had been so slow. He fur­ther ac­cused

CSA of us­ing the Covid-19 pan­demic as a “con­ve­nient ex­cuse” for the de­lay.

The FM can re­veal that one of the rea­sons the mat­ter has been so slow to con­clude is that foren­sic au­di­tor Fun­dudzi Foren­sic Ser­vices was ap­pointed only in March, though Moroe’s pre­cau­tion­ary sus­pen­sion was in De­cem­ber.

CSA has ap­par­ently bud­geted R4m for the process, and Moroe has con­tin­ued to be paid his salary of R365,000 a month.

At the time of writ­ing, the foren­sic au­dit still hasn’t been con­cluded, though that should hap­pen in the com­ing weeks.

This is in con­trast to, say, CSA’S quick con­clu­sion of the case against an­other sus­pended se­nior mem­ber of staff, for­mer CFO Naa­sei Ap­piah.

Moroe and Ap­piah used to be the best of chums. In­deed, it was they who lev­ered Lor­gat out of the or­gan­i­sa­tion when the T20GL crashed and burnt.

The love af­fair didn’t last. When Moroe was flail­ing late last year, he ap­peared to con­trive a case against Ap­piah, as well as against act­ing di­rec­tor for cricket Cor­rie van Zyl and com­mer­cial man­ager Clive Ek­steen, say­ing they had not dis­charged their du­ties to Saca pro­fes­sion­ally.

Van Zyl has since been ex­on­er­ated and re­turned to work, but Ap­piah and Ek­steen have been sus­pended as a re­sult of dis­ci­plinary ac­tion taken against them.

In an open let­ter to the cricket fra­ter­nity two weeks ago, Ek­steen said he would be tak­ing CSA to the Com­mis­sion for Con­cil­i­a­tion, Me­di­a­tion & Ar­bi­tra­tion, while Ap­piah is ap­peal­ing his sus­pen­sion.

What it means: The pan­demic can be viewed as a threat, but it can also be seen as an opportunit­y for Cricket SA

Given th­ese in­con­sis­ten­cies, it is dif­fi­cult not to con­clude that, de­spite the good work done by in­terim CEO Jac­ques Faul, there is a “third force” in­side CSA, com­pris­ing peo­ple ap­pointed by Moroe.

“Ex­plain to me how Moroe has been on full pay all this time, whereas Ap­piah wasn’t?” asks a CSA em­ployee. “He’s be­ing pro­tected, it’s the ob­vi­ous con­clu­sion to draw.”

The FM un­der­stands that Fun­dudzi’s foren­sic au­dit into Moroe’s use of the com­pany credit card, among other things, will be made pub­lic shortly. This will fi­nally al­low the or­gan­i­sa­tion to put the wasted Moroe years be­hind it, as Faul and a more robust board con­tinue to haul the or­gan­i­sa­tion back into the black.

“Some of this is down to sim­ple good man­age­ment,” says Faul. “We’ve cut credit-card spend by 36%. We’ve cut those op­er­a­tional staff us­ing com­pany credit cards down from 47 to

29. I’m cau­tiously op­ti­mistic we’re go­ing to make a small profit this year. I’m guess­ing in the re­gion of R40m-r50m.”

He adds: “To be fair, Covid-19 has also played into our hands, cer­tainly in the short term.

There’s been less travel in the pe­riod, so less [spent] on flights and ac­com­mo­da­tion, and we are look­ing at a ma­jor spon­sor who is likely to make up most of what was lost when Stan­dard Bank didn’t re­new. So things are look­ing up.”

As SA ap­proaches the fourth month of ei­ther com­plete or par­tial lock­down, the Covid-19 pan­demic can be viewed as a threat, but it can also be seen as an opportunit­y. For all the con­fu­sion around the Sol­i­dar­ity Cup, the com­pe­ti­tion was an at­tempt to har­ness the fear and con­fu­sion of the cur­rent mo­ment for the greater good.

Faul has un­doubt­edly brought best prac­tice to his time at the or­gan­i­sa­tion. The le­gal wran­gle with Saca has been shelved and there is greater con­fi­dence in CSA from cor­po­rate SA.

Im­por­tantly, given that it plays such a cru­cial (some may say du­bi­ous) be­hind-the-scenes role in the way sport is run in SA, Su­pers­port and CSA have re-es­tab­lished a close work­ing relationsh­ip, af­ter the SABC was gifted the first two edi­tions of the Mzansi Su­per League.

The mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion is whether Faul, who is in his in­terim role only un­til Septem­ber, has the stom­ach for the end­less pol­i­tics and in­fight­ing that makes SA cricket such an in­tractable and bloody beast.

Not all is lost, be­cause there are ex­am­ples close to hand of how cricket can be run for the ben­e­fit of all.

In late May, for in­stance, the Cen­tral Gaut­eng Lions had their AGM. At the event, con­stituent clubs voted to dis­pense with racial vot­ing blocs, as stip­u­lated in a 2012 re­port into trans­for­ma­tion in the province by judge Pius Langa, and elected an eq­ui­table, racially trans­formed board of five black Africans, two In­di­ans, two coloureds and two whites.

They also elected a woman pres­i­dent, Anne Vi­las, for the first time, and did so with a groundswel­l of com­mon sense and ev­ery­day in­tel­li­gence that makes one cau­tiously op­ti­mistic about cricket’s fu­ture.

Not for the first time, CSA could learn a les­son from its con­stituents.

I’m cau­tiously op­ti­mistic that we’re go­ing to make a small profit this year. I’m guess­ing in the re­gion of R40m-r50m

Gallo Images/syd­ney Seshibedi

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