When players and suits go to war, can there be a winner?
Threats of legal action surround plan to restructure cricket via austerity measures that could see jobs lost
Having been accused by the players of refusing to engage meaningfully over vital issues about the game, cricket’s administrators aren’t doing much to counter that claim.
Instead, the suits would seem to be going out of their way to not explain themselves when asked reasonable questions.
In a strongly worded release on Friday, the SA Cricketers’ Association (SACA) said Cricket SA (CSA) had violated the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the organisations and so could become the target of legal action.
At issue is CSA’s failure, SACA say, to consult with the players about plans to radically restructure domestic cricket as part of austerity measures to manage the effect of mounting losses.
“We reiterate our concerns around the financial position and around a decision, which has significant consequences both for the game and the players, taken without regard to our agreements and without following the consultation process specifically provided for in our recognition agreement,” SACA president Omphile Ramela wrote in a letter to CSA, which was quoted in Friday’s release.
Asked for comment, a CSA spokesperson said only: “We have received their correspondence and taken note of the contents.”
Pressed for a more substantive answer, specifically on the claim that CSA were in breach of their agreement with SACA, the spokesperson responded with: “It’s unfortunate that SACA chose to issue a press release as a means of communicating with CSA. We have noted the same and will respond once we’ve engaged our superiors.”
The players will see the clanging irony in that, what with CSA barring SACA chief executive Tony Irish from their chief executives’ meeting in Johannesburg last month.
SACA’s argument for making their grievances public could be that their hand was forced by CSA’s apparent non-engagement.
The charge has been levelled at the suits in the past, notably in April when an interim agreement between CSA and SACA was signed just five days before the then current deal expired because CSA had left it too late to negotiate a new MOU.
A new MOU wasn’t in place until the second half of June. Now that legally binding agreement has, SACA say, been disrespected by CSA. Asked what form SACA’s legal action could take, Irish said only “there are a few possibilities”. But he hopes it won’t come to that: “SACA’s intention is to get CSA to comply with our agreements.”
CSA told parliament in October that they projected the game would lose R654m in the four-year rights cycle that ends in 2022, though they have since tried to dial that figure down.
Part of the plan to stop the bleeding is to scrap the six-franchise premier domestic system and replace it – and the 11-team provincial structure – with a dozen provincial sides.
CSA claim jobs won’t be sacrificed, but SACA say up to 70 players could lose their contracts.