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CSA will not hold independent investigation into 2018 MSL dispute

Thabang Moroe has shared a strained relationship with SACA Getty Images

Cricket South Africa will not hold an independent investigation into the 2018 Mzansi Super League dispute, which resulted in players' commercial rights fees not being paid for almost a year; neither will it have any independent investigation into its finances despite calls from the South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) for an external inquiry*. In a statement issued on Thursday night, in response to SACA's claims earlier in the day that CSA should seek outside intervention into the reasons why the payment was delayed, CSA said it considers the matter closed.

The payment dispute had led to the suspension of three senior CSA staff members, including interim director of cricket Corrie van Zyl. The three remain suspended for alleged dereliction of duty over the late payment. While SACA, through its outgoing CEO Tony Irish, expressed surprise over the suspensions and sought to clear the trio - the others being chief operating officer Naasei Appiah and commercial manager Clive Eksteen - CSA refused to even identify the names of the members of staff it suspended and rejected SACA's suggestions.

"Mr Irish has confirmed that the dispute over players' rights for the 2018 Mzansi Super League (MSL) has been settled and that also an agreement is in place for the 2019 edition of the tournament as well. As the MSL issue has been settled to the satisfaction of both parties there is no need for the independent investigation that Mr Irish has suggested," CSA's statement read.

In a statement issued on Thursday morning, SACA had said it was "very surprised" that the three had been suspended, as their own dealings with them had been "co-operative". The player body called it "highly unlikely" that CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe would have been unaware of the payment obligations, and said that Moroe had signed the players' commercial rights agreement in November last year. SACA had launched a formal dispute over unpaid commercial rights fees, alleging that CSA had breached an agreement to pay money for use of the players' commercial rights, which includes their images, for the inaugural edition of the MSL.

"We are very surprised that Naasei Appiah, Corrie van Zyl and Clive Eksteen have been suspended in relation to allegations surrounding CSA's non-compliance with the 2018 MSL commercial agreement," Irish, whose tenure with the organisation ends at the end of 2019, said. "SACA didn't deal with Appiah on this issue and in its dealings with Van Zyl and Eksteen over many months they both expressed a strong desire to resolve the payment issue, but it eventually became clear that higher approval to do so was necessary.

"We think it's highly unlikely that CSA's chief executive, Thabang Moroe, would not have been aware of this ongoing issue. He was undoubtedly aware of payment obligations as he had signed the agreement."

SACA confirmed that the money, understood to be an amount of Rand 2.4 million (US$ 159,200 approx.) had now been paid but said the protracted non-payment was part of a wider attempt by CSA to marginalise the player body.

SACA cited disputes dating back to 2018, when negotiations between CSA and SACA over the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which governs the players' employment contract, dragged on for so long that a new MoU was signed three months after the previous one expired. It also mentioned CSA's failure to engage with SACA on matters relating to the proposed domestic restructure, over which SACA took CSA to court.

In the statement, SACA released a detailed timeline explaining its side as far as the process to have the players' commercial rights fees paid is concerned, including the correspondence it had with CSA staff. According to SACA, on October 14, 2019, it sent communication to CSA, including to Moroe, referencing the breach of the 2018 MSL commercial agreement, in which players' fees was not paid. Two days later, SACA sent a follow-up email to Eksteen copied to Moroe, in which SACA issued a final warning to CSA to resolve the matter or face a formal notice of dispute. On October 17, SACA received a reply from Eksteen, indicating CSA's intention to resolve the matter and SACA gave CSA a deadline of October 21. When that was not met, SACA launched a formal dispute on October 23. Six days after that, on October 29, the matter was settled.

Since April this year, SACA has been barred from attending CSA sub-committee meetings, including of the finance and commercial committees, the chief executive's committee, and the cricket committee, which SACA claims is in breach of CSA's own terms of reference.

SACA says it has sought to resolve its issues with CSA on numerous occasions, most recently on August 24 this year, when the parties met to discuss the domestic restructure and SACA's concerns over CSA's finances.

"At the meeting, it was agreed firstly that CSA would conduct an external review of its longer-term financial position and secondly that SACA and CSA would put in place a roadmap and facilitation process to attempt to resolve the relationship issue and the domestic restructure issue by the end of October 2019," the SACA statement read. "As was also agreed, and to ensure the process was committed to in writing, SACA sent a draft roadmap agreement to CSA on 26 August 2019.

"Despite requests made by SACA to CSA for it to respond CSA failed to do so for seven weeks thus rendering the attempted roadmap and facilitation process unworkable and ineffectual. CSA has also failed to act on the agreement to conduct an external review of its finances."

*1830GMT The story was updated after CSA issued a statement