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CSA unveils new T20 team sponsor

Firdose Moonda

September 6, 2012

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Gerald Majola at Makhaya Ntini's retirement announcement , Johannesburg, November, 2010
Companies were reluctant to associate with CSA after the bonus scandal involving Gerald Majola, but the board has since improved its image to bring back sponsors © Gallo Images
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Cricket South Africa have completed a full house of sponsors ahead of the 2012-13 season after Blue Label Telecoms were unveiled as the national T20 team's commercial partners.

The company, who provide prepaid tokens for among other things mobile communications and electricity, have bought naming rights to the South African team for all T20 matches in the next six months. They will not be linked with the team during the World T20 because the business of Blue Line clashed with that of Reliance, an ICC event sponsor which also works in the communications industry. Their deal includes eight matches starting with the series against England which gets underway on Saturday and ending in March with the Pakistan tour.

Having been through an extended period in the aftermath of the ongoing bonus scandal where the body failed to find corporate backing, CSA now have sponsors for all formats of the game. Sunfoil, the cooking oil manufacturing company, sponsor the Test side and the first-class competition while financial services company Momentum now back the ODI team, the domestic one-day competition and the club championships.

All the sponsorships were obtained after CSA suspended chief executive Gerald Majola following three inquiries into bonus payments made following IPL in 2009, which South Africa hosted. Forty staff members, including Majola, were paid a share of R4.7 million (at the time US $ 671, 428) in bonuses which were not authorised through the board.

In relative terms, the amount was fairly small - CSA spend more on coach hire in a financial year - but the issues it highlighted about the organisation's corporate governance drove sponsors away. CSA has not completely sorted these out, although it has gone a long way to improving its image.

It took an intervention from the minister of sport, Fikile Mbalula, to prompt that. After both internal and external commissions of inquiry found that the handling of the bonuses was improper but only reprimanded Majola and stated that CSA's strictures must improve, Mbalula insisted on another committee to investigate. Judge Chris Nicholson chaired the hearings and his report made serious recommendations which CSA were forced to abide by.

One of them was to suspend Majola and institute disciplinary action against him. Majola was suspended in March but the proceedings of his disciplinary hearing have yet to start. They were initially scheduled to be completed by 31 May and the new deadline is for October.

By that time, CSA would also have undergone a board restructure, meeting Nicholson's other major requirement. The new board, which will come into office at the AGM, will consist of more independent directors than before and will be smaller, having been scaled down from 22 to 11.

This redressing has led to companies becoming interested in CSA again and seeing the sport as a valuable commodity to invest in. Blue Label is one such company. "For us, it's all behind us. Let's take this forward. Let the past be the past. Let the brands build and start fresh without the problems of the past. Blue Label are happy to put their brand behind it," Brett Levi, joint chief executive of Blue Label said.

For CSA, this signals another fresh start and a step close to the end of the road filled with doubts and suspicion over their handling of money. "We want to move on. We've shown a commitment to restructure our governing structure and to do things better," Jacques Faul, acting chief executive said. "Maybe this is part of the reward for that, but it is also part of the motivation to keep doing it."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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