Cricket South Africa has held out an olive branch to disgruntled T20 Global franchise owners, writes LUKE ALFRED.
In a recent letter to owners, CSA proposed that they ‘would like to meet to update you to discuss the way forward’. CSA’s letter is ― at least in part ― a response to public criticism levelled at the organisation by three of the franchise owners – the Durban-based Qalandars, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars and the Bloem City Blazers.
All three were involved with last year’s postponed tournament, which was CSA’s failed first foray into a ‘Big Bash’ type T20 extravaganza.
In several cases, public criticism of the manner in which CSA handled the post-postponement process has been followed by lawyers’ letters. At least one owner (but possibly more) is suing CSA for reputational damage in addition to failure to reimburse them sufficiently for expenses incurred last year.
Matters reached a head in early June when CSA announced that they were getting into bed with new ‘equity partners’ SuperSport, with CSA and SuperSport forming a third entity (called ‘Newco’) that will effectively run the 2018 edition of the tournament. The new model – with all six franchises effectively under central control – makes sense from CSA’s point of view because it mitigates their risk, something they felt they were over-exposed to last year.
However, there is no place in the current model for private owners, which means that – for the time being at least – they are out in the cold. The former owners believe they still hold rights to last year’s properties and, further, allege that they only found out about CSA’s new plans in the media.
Not for the first time have they accused CSA of high-handedness, disrespect and poor communication.
Sushil Kumar, the Hong Kong-based businessman and owner of the Bloem City Blazers, has visited the country twice at his own expense in an attempt to meet with CSA representatives. His request for a meeting was ignored on the second occasion, which makes a mockery of chief executive Thabang Moroe’s March statement to Indian cricket website, Cricbuzz, in which he said that CSA has been in communication ‘with the owners regularly’.
When it was put to Kumar in the interview that CSA’s failure to give him an audience must have disappointed him, he said: ‘That would serve no purpose, although when we do meet with Iqbal [Khan, the author of the letter mentioned above] and Louis [von Zeuner, an independent board member] sometime soon, I will voice some very serious concerns.’
Such concerns appear to be acknowledged in the CSA letter when they state that the owners ‘have raised the issue of meeting with CSA before and agree that it should have happened a while ago’. Having admitted their failure to meet, however, they go on to say: ‘Nevertheless we [CSA] wish to move ahead in the spirit that we started.’
This suggests that the former owners might yet have a role to play in a future competition, although Kumar doubted that private owners would play a part this year. Then again, the purpose of the meeting – scheduled now for early August – could be to do nothing more than attempt to persuade the former owners to drop their legal challenges.
The tournament has already cost CSA in the region of R220-million, which includes everything from compensating last year’s players for loss of earnings, to money forked out on lavish launches and auctions. CSA are understandably reluctant for it to cost them any more money.
Sadly, the entire sorry saga still looks as if it has some way to run.
- The T20Global tournament is scheduled to start on 3 November 2018, with the final set for 16 December 2018.