Cricket development in jeopardy after sponsor calls on Moroe, Nenzani to quit

A major sponsor of SA cricket’s development programmes has called on CSA bosses Thabang Moroe and Chris Nenzani to resign over the current crisis in the sport.

FILE: Former Cricket South Africa CEO Thabang Moroe. Picture: @OfficialCSA/Twitter

The future of cricket development in South Africa could hang in the balance after the Willowton Group, which runs the Sunfoil Education Trust, called on Cricket South Africa (CSA) CEO Thabang Moroe and CSA president Chris Nenzani to resign over the state of affairs in cricket’s governing body.

The Sunfoil Education Trust funds cricket development programmes in provinces around the country, which now places the CSA under considerable pressure to correct its wrongs or face the consequences of inaction. Willowton Group, owners of Sunfoil who are a past headline sponsor of international Test cricket series and four-day domestic cricket, wrote a scathing letter to the CSA expressing its concern over recent developments involving the organisation. “Willowton Group writes this letter with grave concern over the state of affairs that have transpired within Cricket South Africa over recent months,” the letter said.

The letter went on to list Willowton’s grievances:
1. The revoking of media accreditation of well-respected cricket writers;
2. The breakdown between Cricket South Africa and SACA (South African Cricketers Association);
3. The suspension of the three senior Cricket South Africa employees;
4. The mishandling of the Director of Cricket issue;
5. Bringing Cricket South Africa into disrepute;
6. Poor corporate governance by Cricket South Africa;
7. The poor handling of the WPCA (Western Province Cricket Association) matter;
8. The restructuring of the domestic competitions* Failure to appoint a lead independent director to the board; and
9. The concentration of power given to the CEO to make key appointments and decisions.

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It’s been a torrid week for the CSA, which started off on Sunday when five cricket journalists’ accreditation was revoked, and will likely come to a head when the CSA board meets this Saturday.

On Monday, Standard Bank, sponsor of the Proteas men’s one-day international team, summoned the CSA to an urgent meeting to express their concerns.

Standard Bank complained about the “unsatisfactory manner in which CSA had engaged some of its stakeholders on the reported governance issues".

"As a major sponsor of cricket in South Africa, we believe that we should have been afforded the courtesy to be kept abreast of these developments within CSA, and not to hear about them from the media in the unfortunate manner that we did," said Thulani Sibeko, Standard Bank Group chief marketing officer.

Also on Monday, Norman Arendse, former CSA president wrote an open letter in reaction to the banning of journalists and apparent maladministration at the CSA.

“Dear cricket-loving fraternity,” Arendse wrote. “It is painful to pen this letter. However, there is just too much at stake to permit our great sport of cricket to fall any further. Silence would be much more painful. Therefore, I write this open letter of appeal to our cricket family members, the CSA board, the CSA members council and the paid CSA administrators to act before it is too late.”
“I suspect, however, that the horse has bolted, and that we are beyond the precipice, and into the abyss,” Arendse added.

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On Tuesday, CSA board member Shirley Zinn resigned, citing corporate governance concerns, and her objection to the banning of journalists.

“The last two days really broke my back, it was a step too far,” Zinn told IOL. “The story about Graeme Smith in the Sunday Times was the end for me.”

On Wednesday, another bombshell dropped, with the resignation of board chairperson and finance committee head Iqbal Khan over concerns about “credit card abuse” and malpractice at the CSA.

“The criticism in the media, and by the public who love and support cricket, has reached such a crescendo, that I can no longer be deaf to the cries for immediate changes at CSA Board level. Events in recent months have completely undone the many good things we have achieved during the term of my office… I can no longer be party to an organisation that is fast ruining the game,” Khan is reported to have said.

On Thursday former South Africa captain and former cricket chief Ali Bacher called on Moroe to resign, saying the CEO is out of his depth.

“We're currently the joke of world cricket. I don't want us to end up like the West Indies who were once a mighty cricket nation but have just disappeared over the last decade or two," Bacher said.

"I want to make it clear that I actually like Thabang and get along well with him. However, the reality of the situation needs to be accepted - that he is not competent for this role," he told Netwerk24.

In its letter, the Willowton Group demanded the following remedial action from CSA:
1. Immediate resignation of the CEO of Cricket South Africa
2. Immediate resignation of the President of Cricket South Africa
3. Immediate reinstatement of the three suspended Cricket South Africa officials
4. Immediate reappointment of the two board members who have resigned

The CSA is due to hold a board meeting on Saturday and is expected to brief the media afterward on the outcome.

Moroe and Nenzani are likely to be under pressure to resign, or explain how they plan to recover from the current crisis South African cricket finds itself in.