Standard Bank to end sponsorship deal
By May 2011, three major changes to the shape of the South African cricketing landscape will have taken place. A new national coach will have started work as Corrie van Zyl steps down and a new one-day international captain will take over the reins from Graeme Smith. Off the field, one or more new sponsors will take over Standard Bank's deal which includes sponsorship of the national one-day and Twenty20 teams, all Twenty20 international matches and the domestic 20-over competition.
On Friday, the financial institution announced its decision to pull out of all sports sponsorships when its current contract expires in May next year. It had pumped over R100 million (US$ 14.3 million) a year into Cricket South Africa (CSA), which included funding the National Cricket Academy, High Performance Programme, Schools Pro20 Challenge, Schools Development Programme and Under-13 National Cricket Week.
Standard Bank announced its decision on the same day as a CSA's internal commission of inquiry into bonus payments made to chief executive Gerald Majola revealed its findings. Majola was cleared of all charges of financial impropriety but will have to pay back R28,169 (US$ 4,024) that was spent on travel for his children. The commission found that Majola had made an "error of judgement" by not declaring the bonuses through CSA's remunerations committee but the CEO escaped with a formal caution.
CSA President Dr Mtutuzeli Nyoka said there was nothing sinister about Standard Bank making public its decision not to renew its sponsorships on the same day as the investigation into Majola's bonuses concluded. "The reasons for Standard Bank not renewing its contract with CSA are clear, they are economic issues," Nyoka said.
Standard Bank is also cutting ties with South Africa's two most popular football clubs, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, but insiders say there is more to the decision than pure mathematics. Rumours in cricketing circles are that Standard Bank felt it was not getting its worth from CSA, while the cricketing body was tired of coping with the Bank's constant demands.
CSA put on a brave face when the announcement was made and said that they have no doubts about lining up other sponsors. Vice president AK Khan said there has been "a tremendous amount of interest from other parties." Early suggestions are that some of the existing sponsors may enter into Standard Bank's territory. CSA are currently sponsored by Castle beer, cellular telephone operator MTN, and fast-food company KFC, but may look to engage another global sponsor.
The hunt for a new national coach is also on. Van Zyl announced in October that he will be stepping down as national coach after next year's World Cup and returning to his post as head of the High Performance Programme. He is part of a five-person committee that will seek a replacement.
Also on the committee are Majola, Andy O' Connor, chairperson of CSA's Cricket Committee, and Andrew Hudson, the convenor of selectors and a representative of the SA Cricketers' Association.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent