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News Analysis

Explainer - What South Africa's cricket crisis is all about

With the CSA board asked to step aside, South African cricket has hit rock bottom. What went wrong?

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
The crisis within Cricket South Africa got a whole lot bigger

The crisis within Cricket South Africa got a whole lot bigger  •  AFP

South African cricket has hit rock bottom after the CSA board and its executive were instructed to step aside by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) following nine months of administrative implosion.
In that time, CSA suspended and dismissed a CEO (and other senior officials), saw another CEO and its board president and three other board members resign, was caught in racially-charged battles, which have exposed deep-seated divisions, and attempted to keep a financial crisis at bay.
With the storm at its peak, here's an explainer to help you navigate the high winds and rough seas which are threatening to drown the South African cricket.
So, silly question but who is running cricket in South Africa right now?
If you ask CSA, they are. "Business as usual" was the official word on Friday morning with acting CEO Kugandrie Govender continuing to work in her role with her full complement of staff. That may change when the SASCOC appoints its task team, which is expected imminently. And we don't know if an interim administrator will be put in place.
Right, and what's brought this on?
Essentially, unstable governance. In the last three years, CSA has had four CEOs - Haroon Lorgat, Thabang Moroe, Jacques Faul and Govender - and although all but Govender worked under the same president, Chris Nenzani, CSA as an organisation has floundered. It's facing major financial losses, has lost sponsors and its relationship with the South African Cricketers Association (SACA) is troubled. If we're looking for a starting point, the failed attempt to launch the T20 Global League in 2017 was probably it.
The T20 Global League was Lorgat's brainchild but just like the tournament, Lorgat too was ditched shortly after. It was replaced by the loss-making Mzansi Super League, for which no television rights have been sold. Combine that with CSA's plans to restructure the domestic system without consulting the SACA and the stage was set for chaos.
The SACA has taken legal action against CSA twice since Moroe was appointed and has come out victorious both times. CSA has since abandoned its restructure plans and is due to be coming up with new ones, but the relationship between CSA and SACA has not healed and the game has suffered as a result.
What is SASCOC and why should I care about this acronym?
The SASCOC is a legislatively created umbrella body under which all South Africa's sporting federations operate. In its constitution, it says its main agenda is to "promote and develop high-performance sport". While it is not a government institution, it can be regarded as quasi-governmental because it stems directly from the country's laws. The SASCOC is not an example of a well-functioning organisation and is currently operating with an acting CEO and acting president as a result of delayed elections. Sounds familiar?
Can SASCOC really do what it has just done to CSA?
Yes. According to clause 9.1 35.4 of the SASCOC's constitution, "members shall be subordinate to SASCOC and must comply with the Constitution of SASCOC and any directives issued by SASCOC from time to time subject to the proviso that any directive shall not be in conflict with any requirement of the relevant international body to which that member is affiliated".
But hang on, doesn't the SASCOC's intervention contravene the ICC's constitution?
Possibly. Former ICC head of legal David Becker believes the ICC will be "concerned," with the SASCOC's actions and will be keeping a close eye on developments.
So the ICC can intervene too?
They can, and there are examples - such as in Zimbabwe last year when the country's Sports and Recreation Commission disbanded the Zimbabwe Cricket board, it led to Zimbabwe's subsequent suspension from the ICC. But it does not mean they will do the same with South Africa. There are other examples of member countries' governments who appear to be pushing the envelope of the code of conduct without the teams getting suspended.
One such example is Pakistan, where the head of state has always been a patron of the cricket board and has, in the past, appointed members directly to the board and recently decreed a complete overhaul of the domestic game. That has not invited the ICC scrutiny and neither has the role of the Indian government in the cricket-field impasse between India and Pakistan.
We might conclude that the ICC is more likely to respond to CSA in the same way they react to the PCB and the BCCI, rather than the way they deal with smaller members like Zimbabwe and Nepal.
Is there a Hail Mary CSA can pull out to make things better?
There is, and they should have used it weeks ago: make the forensic report public.
Wait, what forensic report?
The report was first mooted when Moroe was suspended in December last year and was intended to look into allegations of misconduct. Work only started on it in March and there were delays in completing it but CSA now has a copy. It is believed to be 468 pages long but very few people have actually seen it. Not even the vast majority of CSA's own Members Council - the 14 provincial presidents who form the highest decision-making body in the organisation. CSA required any of the members who wanted to see it to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which some have refused to do.
Neither the SASCOC nor the country's sports minister Nathi Mthethwa has seen the report despite Mthethwa insisting on viewing it before CSA's AGM, which was scheduled for September 5. Instead of showing Mthethwa the report, CSA postponed the AGM.
Why the secrecy?
That's the million-dollar question and we can only guess, educatedly. The report was due to cover CSA's activities in full, including activities of members of staff other than Moroe and that of the board. CSA's insistence on keeping the report under wraps seems to indicate there are things they don't want to be made known. Whispers are that the report implicates several people other than Moroe, which would force CSA to take action against those people too.
The players will be fine, right?
For now, the players are unaffected with ten men's players at the IPL and seven women's players preparing for the WBBL. However, the immediate future of the game in the country is in question. It is already early September and, Covid-19 aside, in a regular season, by now South African cricket would have confirmed domestic and international fixtures for the next summer.
Understandably, the pandemic has delayed this but there is no indication of whether CSA has made any progress about when franchise competitions will start and if the national teams will be in action any time soon (albeit that they need the borders open for the latter to happen). If fixtures are scant, CSA will eventually lose money and that will impact the players.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent