CSA v Gauteng Cricket Board August 14, 2009

Wanderers deal could see sweeping changes

The Gauteng Cricket Board agreed to smile for the cameras and do exactly what everybody expected them to

It's all over because the fat lady sang. Or rather, the fat cats agreed to disagree and smile for the cameras and do exactly what everybody expected them to. Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the Gauteng Cricket Board (GCB) resolved their dispute, the Wanderers was handed back international status, which means that England will play at the ground that CSA president Dr Mtutuzeli Nyoka calls "the Mecca of SA cricket."

What has gone unnoticed is the fine print and CSA's perfectly executed trade-off. In return for lifting the ban on the Wanderers, the mediation agreement between the parties stipulated that the GCB has to undergo a management makeover and make greater commitments to transformation. The GCB are required to change the representation on its board so that 50% of the members are from previously disadvantaged (black) clubs, and the remaining 50% are from advantaged clubs (traditionally white clubs). Once the new board is in office, a committee of six will be chosen, whose job it will be to specifically address transformation.

This way, CSA has smoothed over the issue of the IPL contract and hosting rights with the GCB and the issue of racial bias that threatened to split the GCB from within. In both cases, the parties see the agreement as a step forward. "We were not trying to isolate the issues, be it over the IPL contract, hosting rights or transformation; instead we were trying to tackle the issue of leadership at the GCB as a whole. If you look at the complaints that were being raised against the GCB they covered a range of things, from cricketing issues such as lack of results in the province and also a lack of transformation. We saw the leadership problem as the root cause and this is what we are looking to solve," Nyoka said.

The GCB have accepted the criticism of their management, admitting that they, "had to make some concessions" in brokering the deal. Barry Skjoldhammer, president of the GCB, said "the animosity has been taken out" of the situation and gave every indication the GCB was willing to change the composition of its board. "Our annual general meeting (AGM) was originally scheduled for next Wednesday (August 19) but it has been postponed. Instead we will have a special general meeting on that day, in which we will inform all our members of the changes we intend to make and hopefully within three weeks will have the AGM and elect the new board".

The new board will have to adopt a transformation charter, which Nyoka said CSA will help the GCB to implement. "We have a transformation committee of our own, who are experienced and who know how to deal with the issue and we hope the GCB will make use of them," Nyoka said. "In fact, if the GCB wants assistance with aligning their new constitution with CSA's model, we will be happy to provide help."

The GCB and CSA are presenting a united front with the GCB saying they will accept CSA's assistance and understand that their board needs to be more "inclusive." The body that brought the complaint of racial discrimination against the GCB, the Concerned Cricket Fraternity, is reacting with a little more concern. While they also lauded the progress made and said they believed their concerns had been addressed. It's whether or not the transformation charter is implemented that has the Fraternity uneasy.

In launching their original complaint, the Fraternity made clear that they had waited over fifteen years for a change in their province, and had tried on numerous occasions in that time to engage in dialogue with the GCB. Hussein Manack, their spokesman, explained that was their reason for calling on higher authorities, such as CSA and the Minister of Sport to intervene in their dispute.

The GCB are unlikely to risk ministerial intervention again and will probably want to stay out of CSA's naughty kid's roster for a while. They being so compliant with the governing body of cricket that they don't even want to see the IPL contract anymore

Even after those authorities have got involved; the Fraternity remains concerned that the commitment to transformation is sustained. Nyoka provided some reassurance. "We will definitely be monitoring the progress of the GCB. It's not just CSA who will be acting as a watchdog but the local government as well, because they have their own guidelines regarding transformation."

The Fraternity may only be convinced once they see aggressive development. Manack said they want "rapid transformation". While the GCB and CSA agreements have been made in good faith, they have yet to set clear deadlines and this concerns the fraternity. Manack hoped to see "complete" change in one to three years, which includes development of facilities in disadvantaged areas, such as Soweto, Lenasia and Eldorado Park, and the development of players from those areas.

"In the last meeting with the GCB (before the agreement), they presented us with a ten-year plan for transformation and we don't want to be in that situation again," Manack said. "While we understand that this time the Minister will be monitoring the process, we don't want to be going nowhere slowly again."

The GCB are unlikely to risk ministerial intervention again and will probably want to stay out of CSA's naughty kid's roster for a while. They are being so compliant with the governing body of cricket that they don't even want to see the IPL contract anymore. "Our issue is more about hosting rights," Sjkoldhammer said. Nyoka confirmed that CSA and all the affiliates were working on defining the hosting rights for all grounds.

What everyone seems to have realised is what Nyoka plainly states, "South African cricket needs a strong Gauteng, as the richest province and the province with the most players, so we need the problems fixed". It's the understanding of a "strong Gauteng" that differs. For CSA and the GCB that means an organisation that doesn't cause problems but for the fraternity it means something a lot more intricate. It means ensuring players like Johnson Mafa and Sushil Parbhoo are no longer sidelined and are given the same chance as any other white player in the province, it means having the Soweto Cricket Stadium up to international level so that one day England will be able to play a match there and it means not waiting another 15 years for change.

Firdose Moonda is a freelance writer based in Johannesburg