South Africa get new sponsor
Cricket SA have secured a major sponsor for one-day cricket, after they battled to get corporate backing for the 2011-12 season. Financial services group Momentum signed an exclusive six-year deal for the title rights to ODIs and the one-day domestic competition. They have also pledged to put money into development with their backing of the National Club Championships and a transportation solution for club cricket.
The contract comes after a tough period for South Africa's cricket governing body, which is still embroiled in a bonus scandal that has stolen headlines for two years. The implications of the R4.7 million (around US$ 565,000) in unauthorised payments that were made to 40 CSA staff after the successful hosting of the 2009 IPL and Champions Trophy have not been felt too severely by the national team, but their most telling effect has been on CSA's bottom line.
Last season, CSA were unable to convince any company to associate themselves with the organisation for a Twenty20 series against Australia, although they were in talks with Momentum at that stage. They eventually gave the naming rights to a charity organisation and left the one-day series unsponsored. For the Test rubber which followed, Sunfoil, a family-owned cooking oil manufacturing company, was brought on board, at what was understood to be a bargain deal.
Momentum decided not to put pen to paper "given the potential reputation risks that existed," at the time. Since then, CSA have underwent a ministerial commission of enquiry, conducted by judge Chris Nicholson on the instructions of the country's sports minister Fikile Mbalula, and accepted the proposals Nicholson made in his report.
Those recommendations included suspending chief executive Gerald Majola pending disciplinary action and restructuring the board to incorporate more independent directors. CSA have done the first and are in the process of the second, which they hope to have completed by the time of their AGM in September.
By taking these steps, they were able to convince Momentum that the "timing was right," for them to partner CSA. "We are very confident that substantial progress has been made from CSA's side," Nicolaas Kruger, chief executive of MMI holdings, the parent company of Momentum told ESPNcricinfo. "We felt it made sense to wait for the Nicholson enquiry to complete their process but we've always been in the background and we've always been in touch and in principle we were always but it was not practical to progress with detailed discussions. Now that CSA have embraced the spirit of the Nicholson recommendations, we feel the sentiment is more positive."
CSA's problems are not over though - Majola's disciplinary hearing has yet to begin and although the board has agreed to restructure, that theory still has to be put into practice. Momentum have made sure they are covered though, with a contract that includes a clause stating the minimum requirements they expect CSA to meet. "Any long-term contractual agreement of this nature must have clauses on what the one party wants the other one to deliver on," Kruger said. "That is just a safety net. It includes things like complying with the Companies' Act."
While that sounds basic, it was the alleged breaking of the Companies' Act that got CSA into trouble in the first place. Both an external audit by KPMG and Nicholson found that Majola may have breached the legislation in four instances.
Given the problems that CSA have faced, some may find it surprising that Momentum were willing to agree to a six-year deal. Kruger said his company felt that the time period would be long enough for them to see the effects their money will make on the sport. "You need to invest in the sport and then it takes time to see that pay off," Kruger said. "First we need to create that association between the one-day games and Momentum and then we have to the development period at grass roots. We really wanted to cater for that." Momentum's commitment has come as welcome reprieve for all at Cricket SA. "We are grateful for the confidence they have shown in our organisation," Jacques Faul, acting chief executive, said while limited-overs captain AB de Villiers described the new sponsorship as a "relief."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent