CAPE TOWN: The South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) have threatened strike action by players just a few weeks before England are due to arrive for a four-Test tour as growing dismay at the country’s governing body threatens to boil over.
South Africa and England are due to meet on Boxing Day in the first Test at Centurion, but the chaos engulfing Cricket South Africa (CSA) has placed that under threat as players meet to discuss industrial action this Friday.
SACA chief executive Tony Irish said the England fixtures are ‘unlikely’ to be affected by any industrial action, but could not rule it out.
“We still have to discuss the principle of it [industrial action], this is a very early stage of discussion and we will be very mindful of the importance of the international fixtures. It is unlikely those will be affected,” he said. “We will be responsible around the international tours, because we know that those affect teams from outside of South Africa.”
Irish said any strike action will be a last resort, but added the players have been left exasperated by CSA’s refusal to engage with them on a number of issues.
“It is an exhaustion of all other means of trying to deal with issues. Agreements are breached, we raise concerns, we try to resolve issues, and the result from the other side (CSA) is just to carry on. At some stage you must decide whether you will accept that,” he said. “It is about protecting the game and making sure it is healthy and sustainable going forward. That is critical for the players, whose livelihoods depend on it.”
SACA are embroiled in a court battle with CSA over plans to restructure the local game, expanding it from six domestic franchises to 12, but which could mean a reduction in earnings for players.
SACA, which represents 310 professional cricketers, have previously bemoaned a lack of transparency from CSA on a range of issues relating to the financial position of the organisation and concerns around its governance.
There is also fresh unhappiness that a Fantasy League product endorsed by CSA for their Mzansi Super League Twenty20 competition is using names and images of players without their permission, potentially also putting them at risk of unwittingly flouting gambling rules in CSA’s own anti-corruption code.
Meanwhile, CSA will host a special board meeting on Saturday as the governing body seeks to address a series of controversies, which was compounded by Tuesday’s resignation of respected board member Shirley Zinn.
The abrupt departure of Zinn was the latest setback for CSA Chief Executive Officer Thabang Moroe, who has had to answer questions about its declining balance sheet and its treatment of the media after five journalists had their accreditations revoked.
The organisation has also yet to appoint a permanent director of cricket following the decision not to renew the contract of Ottis Gibson in August, with a little over three weeks to go before the start of England series.
Zinn told South Africa’s Daily Maverick she saw little way forward for the organisation under Moroe’s leadership.
“I came to the conclusion that after all sorts of efforts to try and improve, speak to the situation and to try and affect change at board level, I had to resign,” the newspaper quoted her as saying on Wednesday. “We fall from one crisis to another and there is no end in sight. I somehow felt if I put up my hand and took this step, for what it’s worth, I might propel this forward in some way.”
Standard Bank, a major CSA sponsor, called an urgent meeting with Moroe on Monday to discuss, among the things, why the organisation withdrew the accreditation of five journalists deemed critical of his leadership.
Their access was restored hours later after an outcry over press freedom.
The bank’s chief marketing officer, Thulani Sibeko, said they were ‘gravely concerned about developments’ within the CSA administration.
The CSA is involved in an ongoing court case with the South African players union over a proposed restructuring of the domestic game, while the courts also rejected its attempt to take over the leadership of one of the provincial unions.
Following the meeting with the bank Moroe said mistakes had been made.
“I unreservedly apologise on behalf of Cricket South Africa for the erroneous process that led to journalists having accreditation revoked,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
Moroe said the board meeting on Saturday should clear up a number of outstanding issues, “including but not limited to the director of cricket role team selection processes for the England tour and all other Cricket South Africa issues relevant to the South African public.”
Graeme Smith, the most successful Test captain of all time, is in talks with CSA over the director role, but has publicly expressed concerns that he would not be given the ‘freedom’ to fulfil his mandate.
Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2019