Former ICC chief executive David Richardson will chair a committee that will investigate the proposal to restructure South Africa's domestic cricket system, which is currently sub-judice in the Johannesburg High Court, and advise if it needs a tweak or not.
The plan, put forward by the Cricket South Africa Members' Council - made up of the 14 provincial presidents that are affiliated to CSA - in April sought to condense the existing two-tier franchise and provincial system into one tier, with 12 provincial teams. A month later, the South African Cricketers' Association (SACA), who claimed they had not been consulted, launched a court application demanding that CSA show-cause for the restructure. CSA submitted its answering papers to the court in November.*
Since then, CSA has undergone major changes to its executive management with the suspension of CEO Thabang Moroe and six other staff members and the appointment of acting CEO Jacques Faul and interim director of cricket Graeme Smith for a period of three months. One of their mandates is to repair the strained relationship with SACA, largely caused by the rift around the proposed domestic restructure.
On Monday night, following a special sitting of the council and the CSA board, the organisation announced that Richardson, Smith, chief financial officer Pholetsi Moseki, and a representative from SACA would form a steering committee to make recommendations on the way forward for domestic cricket. SACA responded on Tuesday morning, indicating that they had no prior knowledge of the committee and would not engage with CSA unless the current plans are withdrawn.
"Although CSA has announced that SACA will be part of this committee, we have yet to be formally contacted by CSA on this. I confirm, however, that SACA will not participate in this committee until the existing restructure decision is formally withdrawn" Tony Irish
"Although CSA has announced that SACA will be part of this committee, we have yet to be formally contacted by CSA on this. I confirm however that SACA will not participate in this committee until the existing restructure decision is formally withdrawn," SACA's outgoing CEO Tony Irish said. "Given that this is the subject of the court application, we cannot participate in a formal committee where decisions taken by it may affect the outcome of the court case. It is therefore obvious to us that the restructure decision must be withdrawn and the court case settled with us first."
This is the second instance of SACA standing firm on its demands in the face of changes at CSA. Last week, when Faul was unveiled and CSA announced its intention for a negotiating panel to seek to mend fences with SACA, Irish said SACA would not interact with any panel that included CSA board members. In its statement, SACA has reiterated calls for the board to take responsibility for the current crises and resign. "We repeat our call for that leadership to step down," Irish said.
All that will only make Richardson's task more complicated as he enters a consultancy role with CSA, aimed at restoring good governance in an organisation whose suspended CEO faces allegations of misconduct and credit card abuse, and which has lost one major sponsor and have another issuing an ultimatum on the position of the board, not to forget the heavy financial losses that have been forecast.
Speaking in Paarl on Monday night, Richardson acknowledged that the situation was serious and solutions needed to be sought urgently.
"It's not good on a number of fronts. Things have been allowed to fester," Richardson said. "Jacques has got his hands full looking at the operations, there are governance issues that probably won't go away and then we've got the urgency of having to deal with the England team arriving and having to put on a good performance. There's a lot to be done."
"We are talking about structures that need to be in place for next season and contracts will have to be signed up come February-March-April of 2020. So I think this is quite an urgent project." David Richardson
Richardson will specifically concentrate on the financial aspect, looking into CSA's projected losses of Rand 654 million (US$ 45.3 million approx.) in the next four-year cycle, a number which prompted cost-saving such as the domestic restructure. That figure has been described as an overestimate by CSA, which says its austerity measures are having an effect, and underestimated by SACA, which has put the figure closer to Rand 1 billion (US$ 69.3 million approx.).
"Simply put, things have changed quickly," Richardson said. "For example, the value of international rights is not what it was two years ago, so first of all, we've got to make sure the forecasting and assumptions that are made when it comes to devising any kind of structure are robust enough. That's an exercise in itself. People throw around this Rand 650 million forecast loss, it is 650, is it 300 million, is it 1 billion? We've got to establish that upfront and understand the challenges facing us."
Once the financial landscape has been established, Richardson and his committee aim to put forward a proposal for the future of South African domestic cricket for the board to consider. While CSA's statement said Richardson would report to the board in the first quarter of 2020, the man himself believes most of the work needs to take place in the first month, especially because player contracts - whether for franchise teams or a provincial teams - will need to finalised by April, the end of the financial year.
"It's quite urgent. We are talking about structures that need to be in place for next season and contracts will have to be signed up come February-March-April of 2020. So I think this is quite an urgent project. We will hopefully have made a lot of progress by the end of January next year."
Richardson was optimistic his committee would be able to work with SACA, but his thoughts came before SACA's Tuesday morning announcement. "I don't think it will be difficult. We have already had a meeting and I think the commitment is there to work with them and make sure we consult to the degree that is going to be effective. The questions that SACA are asking are probably very similar to the questions that we are asking so I don't see it as an issue. There's certainly a willingness on SACA's part to work together on this because after all it's also the players' futures that are at stake, not only the sport's," he said.
While SACA emphasised that it "wants to find solutions both to the financial challenges which cricket now faces and to what the domestic structure should be", and are open to discussions with Richardson and Smith, they want an end to the legal battle and a proper process put in place. "This is the only way to bring clarity for the players on what will happen next season and to ensure that we are able to deal with how any changes will affect them," Irish said.
This article was updated following statements from David Richardson and Tony Irish at 9.35am GMT on December 17, 2019