Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) have turned down a proposed bail-out from the ICC but confirmed it will restructure its organisation with a view to reducing expenses as it attempts to climb out of debt. This follows several months of discussions between the ZC and the ICC over ZC's finances, during which a primary application for a loan was first turned down in January, which was followed by an ICC visit and a bail out offer made with conditions of cost cutting and key administrative changes.
ESPNcricinfo understands the ICC, which did not comment on the matter, was willing to provide ZC with a conditional loan of up to US$16 million, including an immediate US$10.8 million to write off amounts owed to two banks; n return it sought an agreement from ZC to restructure radically, trim down its organisation and operate under an administrator.
Zimbabwe Cricket did not deny the existence of a bail-out or give reasons as to why it had been turned down. "This is a matter of strict confidentiality between ZC and the ICC," Lovemore Banda, ZC's media and communication manager, speaking on behalf of chairman Peter Chingoka, said. "We have a business plan that is driven by restructuring and whose key dynamic is to cut down on costs."
It is believed an introduction of an ICC-appointed and backed administrator is thought to have been the major reason for ZC's reluctance and ultimate refusal to agree to the deal, although ZC would not confirm that.
Estimates have put ZC's debts in the region of US$18 million and mounting. That was the primary reason ZC approached the ICC for financial assistance in January. Then, ZC applied for a loan of US$19 million, which the ICC board failed to approve. Instead, they supplied ZC with US$3 million to end a player strike that had dragged on from December, restart domestic cricket in the country and adequately prepare the national side for the World T20.
ICC CEO Dave Richardson and chief financial officer Faisal Hasnain were also directed to visit Zimbabwe to assess the situation in the country. Their trip, which took place in March, made several recommendations to reduce ZC's expenses. According to the Herald newspaper those included substantial job cuts.
The newspaper said that the ICC report into Zimbabwe cricket's finances, following the visit by Richardson and Hasnain, suggested that the number of contracted players across the board would be reduced from 99 to 56 - 14 per franchise. Information has since surfaced that the number could be as low as 10 per franchise. Those contracts, which come up for renewal at the end of this month, would only run for the duration of the cricket season. The franchise adminstration would also be cut, with one source indicating there would no longer be franchise CEOs, but one overall franchise administrator.
Only 15 players would be on year-round national contracts with the Herald also quoting the ICC's report as warning players of the fragile economic climate around them. "The players need to better understand the harsh realities of the state of the Zimbabwe economy and the current financial position of ZC," the report read.
The newspaper indicated player payments were a major contributor to ZC's costs, with members of the squad earning a total of US$412,000 for the three matches they played in the preliminary round of the World T20. That promoted a response from the Zimbabwean Professional Cricketers' Association (ZPCA) in which they revealed they are yet to receive the funds. "Players are yet to be paid that much by ZC. We challenge ZC to produce proof of payment to that effect so that the world can see. We agreed to the $412,000 figure to include appearance and match fees for both the participating players and the other 15 remaining. ZC are signatory to this agreement," the statement said.
The ZPCA also said the players had "lost trust in the administration," and "were and are still underpaid." They vowed to continue demanding a quarter of the proceeds ZC earn from World Cup events - which the ZPCA had previously wanted as a guarantee for player salaries for a year - and urged ZC to "adopt the ICC bailout plan immediately."
While ZC have not made public whether they will re-engage the ICC, they have already implemented some cost-cutting measures. They scrapped rest days between domestic List A and first-class fixtures for the remainder of the current season. It has also been reported that the Southern Rocks, the franchise based in Masvingo, will be culled ahead of next season, which could also see the first-class competition became a three-day instead of a four-day tournament.
These measures are believed to be part of an effort to renegotiate a loan at the ICC's next board meeting in June. The major sticking point is thought to be that of the administrator. A senior South African official was one of the people sounded out for the role of overseer, although talks did not move past initial discussions, and former ZC managing director David Ellman-Brown was named as another possibility.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent