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Zimbabwe cricket faces financial crisis

Board strapped with debts of US$18 million

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Some of Zimbabwe's players were asked to pay their own expenses during the recent T20 tri-series  •  AFP

Some of Zimbabwe's players were asked to pay their own expenses during the recent T20 tri-series  •  AFP

Zimbabwe Cricket has incurred debt amounting to US$18 million and has not paid some of its players, ESPNcricinfo has learned. The board has denied the allegations and said its "financial standing is sound" and it has "never failed to execute our mandate".
The situation came to a head three months ago, when Zimbabwe hosted an unofficial T20 tri-series between themselves, South Africa and Bangladesh, which Zimbabwe won. Midway through the competition, a delegation of players who had not been paid match fees in over a year sought the help of a government minister to ensure the board fulfilled its obligations to them.
Apart from players who had not been paid at all, some were given only allowances, and put up in what an insider called "appalling conditions" for the duration of the event. ZC is also accused of asking some of their own players from outside Harare to pay their own expenses to travel to the capital to compete while Cricket South Africa paid all the costs for its own team to take part in the tournament.
Certain players were "threatened" when they asked about the status of their payments and so looked for outside assistance. The intervention resulted in most of the players been paid, although there remain a few who have not seen any of the amounts owing to them. A source close to the Zimbabwe camp told ESPNcricinfo that five members of the squad who played at the World T20 had not been paid.
This has led to some concerns being expressed over the players' financial well being and whether they will be able to continue playing cricket in the future. "Some of them are the breadwinners of their families and so they can't afford not to be paid," the source said. Zimbabwe's preparations for the World T20 were disrupted because those players who had found other employment were unable to attend some practices.
Alistair Campbell, chairman of the cricket committee, said he was "not aware," of any non-payment*. He said the 10 central player contracts were renewed in August, in keeping with the annual date for their turnover and that any players were told when their paperwork would be in order and all payments had been made. He conceded that ZC does have some "financial concerns" but said they are making efforts to sort it out.
Campbell referred to the body moving out of its headquarters at Harare Sports Club two weeks ago. It was reported in the local media that ZC were forced out because they had not paid their rent, a charge ZC denies. It said it chose to move to property it owns in the suburb of Highlands for cost-cutting purposes. "Like every other company, ZC has had to review its expenditure within the framework of the current economic conditions," the board said in a statement. "It does not make sense for an individual or company to pay rentals when they have a property that can be utilised for the same purpose."
ZC was previously not able to fit all its staff into the Highlands office but has since trimmed its administrative roster. "Harare Sports Club remains an international cricket ground and we are likely to have satellite offices there during international games," the board said.
Zimbabwe are scheduled to host Bangladesh in a series that was postponed from August this year, but no dates have yet been set for that tour. Talk that the delay was partly caused by ZC's cash-flow problems has been squashed by the board, which insists it remains able to provide the necessary finance to run cricket in the country. "We have prepared and equipped a national team to represent us at the World Twenty20, the domestic season is set to commence on schedule, our franchise system continues to function, and our age-group teams have been well represented on the international arena," ZC said.
While Zimbabwe does have a functional franchise system, there is no active second-team competition and club cricket has suffered. ZC has little means of making money, with incoming tours often costing more than is made from selling television rights. The board made losses on all three series it hosted last year, and although it has sponsorship arrangements, these do not offer them enough money to fully fund cricket in the country.
*09:20 GMT, September 26: This story has been updated.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent