The South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) have confirmed that 10 out of 17 players contracted to the Cobras franchise seek the removal of coach Paul Adams and will ask the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to intervene. The dispute resolution body cannot make a binding order but will seek to mediate between the parties.
The players' grievances, which were formally recorded in May this year, have been specified for the first time in a SACA release but none of the players have been named. The players claim to have experienced a "a fundamental loss of confidence in the coach's ability to lead the coaching of the team," and "his inability to create an effective team culture, poor communication and man management skills, lack of tactical and technical knowledge and disorganisation in running proper practice and training sessions" as the reason for them seeking his removal.
The players claim this has been the case since Adams took over four years ago, even though he has won five trophies in four seasons with the franchise. "According to the players the coach's shortcomings back then were compensated for by the role played by senior players at the time and the situation has got progressively worse," Tony Irish, SACA CEO said.
In December last year, a player survey revealed the breakdown of the relationship but the players said the issues went unaddressed. Adams underwent a leadership course over the winter in an effort to improve his coaching skills. When the players learned of the Western Cape Cricket Board's (WCC) intention to renew Adams' contract in May, 10 players raised formal grievances while others supported the action. "We also know that players outside of the 10 sympathise with the grievance although have not put their names to it," Irish said.
An internal process was put in place to deal with the situation which culminated in the appointment of Paddy Upton as a mediator. Upton interviewed players and compiled a report which, in Irish's words, "made a clear recommendation to the parties that the coach should stand down from the team, and be re-deployed in a different capacity if possible." The Cobras chose not to implement that because they found material deficiencies in Upton's report: he did not interview all their contracted players. SACA and the players reject this as a valid reason for ignoring Upton's assessment.
"We and the players concerned strongly disagree with this suggestion of the report's deficiency. Upton was brought in to get an understanding of the grievance and to assist in resolving it, and he was specifically empowered to use whatever approach he deemed appropriate in doing so. He looked at the documentation, including the surveys, interviewed the individuals he considered relevant and produced a thorough report with a clear recommendation to the parties," Irish said.
The players remain firm in their demand that Upton's suggestion is upheld and Adams stands down. The CCMA will take at least a month to complete proceedings and until then, it will be business as usual at the Cobras with Adams in charge. The squad has been in training and will kick off their season next Wednesday with a first-class fixture against Lions in Johannesburg.
"The players care about the Cobras team and its ability to perform going forward. They are however extremely frustrated by the way their very legitimate concerns, which were clearly evident over nine months ago, have been dealt with and the length of time it has taken. They want the franchise to address the issue further," Irish said.