The Wanderers Cricket Stadium in Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
The Wanderers Cricket Stadium in Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The SA Cricketers’ Association (Saca) says Cricket SA CEO Thabang Moroe was central to the agreement allowing the use of the players’ commercial rights for 2018’s inaugural Mzansi Super League (MSL).

So why did Cricket SA say in a release on Wednesday: “The board and management [of Cricket SA] has recently become aware of an unfortunate situation involving players and player contracts”?

That was Cricket SA’s explanation for Tuesday’s news that interim director of cricket Corrie van Zyl‚ sponsor and sales head Clive Eksteen and COO Naasei Appiah had been suspended over their actions around the commercial rights deal and that it was investigating the situation.

Last Wednesday Saca lodged a formal dispute because it has yet to be paid the agreed contract fee of R2.4m.

A Saca release on Thursday blew the lid off the mystery that surrounds the saga‚ and called for an independent investigation into the damaging episode. The release says the contract was signed by Saca CEO Tony Irish as well as Moroe.

“We are very surprised that Naasei Appiah‚ Corrie van Zyl and Clive Eksteen have been suspended in relation to allegations surrounding Cricket SA’s non-compliance with the 2018 MSL commercial agreement‚” Irish was quoted as saying.

“Saca didn’t deal with Appiah on this issue and in its dealings with Van Zyl and Eksteen over many months they both expressed a strong desire to resolve the payment issue‚ but it eventually became clear that higher approval to do so was necessary.

“We think it’s highly unlikely that [Moroe] would not have been aware of this ongoing issue. He was undoubtedly aware of payment obligations as he had signed the agreement.”

Saca‚ the release said‚ tried three times in four days earlier in October to resolve the issue — all without success‚ and despite Eksteen having “indicated that Cricket SA was now prepared to resolve the matter”.

On Tuesday‚ only 10 days before this year’s MSL is set to start‚ the issue was finally put to bed and an arrangement made to use the rights to market the second edition of the tournament.

“Saca believes that the 2018 MSL dispute and the signature of the 2019 MSL commercial agreement were only resolved because of the impending player commercial activations scheduled to take place on October 30 2019‚” Irish was quoted as saying. “In the absence of an agreement Cricket SA would not have had the rights to use the players in the activations.”

Much of the rest of the release details Saca’s struggle to be treated with due respect by Cricket SA‚ which includes — the player body says — breaches of the legally binding memorandum of understanding between the organisations.

“Saca also believes that Cricket SA’s persistent refusal to comply with the 2018 MSL agreement for such a long period was simply part of a much wider‚ systematic attempt to marginalise Saca and the role that it plays in protecting the collective interests of the players‚” Irish was quoted as saying.

“Saca is a fully recognised players’ association representing every professional cricketer in SA and the players’ trust holds all of the players’ commercial rights. It is not a ‘player intermediary’ as suggested by Cricket SA.”

That dismissive phrase was how Cricket SA described Saca in its release on Tuesday.

Saca’s litany of Cricket SA’s failings includes signing the current memorandum of understanding three months after the previous agreement expired as well as several instances of the board ignoring serious questions on challenges the game faces that could have significant negative implications for the players.

That led Saca to launch a high court action in May over a plan to restructure the domestic system that could put 70 players out of work.

“Cricket SA has consistently failed to comply with the time periods prescribed by the rules of court relating to the filing of documents in this application and it has yet to file any answering papers‚” Saca’s release said.

It says it has been barred since April from meetings of Cricket SA’s finance and commercial‚ CEOs’ and cricket subcommittees. “Cricket SA is in breach of its own terms of reference in relation to some of these subcommittees‚ which provide for Saca’s attendance‚” the release said.

Plans to design a “road map” to “resolve the issues related to the domestic restructure and to discuss both the Cricket SA/Saca relationship and Saca’s concerns relating to Cricket SA’s financial situation”‚ which included an external financial review‚ were agreed on August 24.

And that’s the last Saca say it has heard from Cricket SA on those matters.

“Saca believes that the matters that are set out above are as important as the MSL commercial agreement issue‚ if not more so‚ in order to protect both player interests and the interests of the game‚” Irish was quoted as saying.

“Saca accordingly calls upon Cricket SA not only to ensure that its investigation into this MSL issue is conducted by an independent person‚ or organisation‚ but also that an independent investigation is conducted into these related matters.”

Cricket SA did not respond to requests for comment.