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Picture: 123RF/ALLAN SWART
Picture: 123RF/ALLAN SWART

Cricket SA has a problem. Expenses are exceeding income and have been for years. Worse, the nature and amount of future income is uncertain. They have finally done a wise thing by establishing a “review committee” to see how things might change, or be changed, in the future.

The committee will be chaired by Cricket SA’s CFO, Tjaart van der Walt. Under him there will be seven good men of SA cricket in long-time director Andrew Hudson, director of cricket, Enoch Nkwe and Corrie van Zyl who has held a variety of posts over many years.

Director of pathways, Eddie Khoza, is also on board as well as Northern Titans and two-time Cricket SA interim CEO Jacques Faul and former WP and Lions batsman and current Border CEO Omphile Ramela. The players will be represented by the SA Cricketers’ Association CEO, Andrew Breetzke.

The good news is that they are all actively involved with the game and have an intimate working knowledge of the structure of the organisation. The bad news might be that they all have a deep, intimate knowledge of the game and its strengths and weaknesses.

All have plenty of skin in the game and therefore much, potentially, to lose or gain. Whereas all might agree that the numbers, as they stand, do not stack up and the current structure is irrefutably unsustainable, deciding and agreeing upon where cuts should be made will almost certainly be problematic.

Ramela has seen first-hand how difficult it is for one of the smaller unions to make ends meet, even with a R30m annual handout from Cricket SA. But would he advocate for a reduction in the number of professional provinces? He has a law degree from Stellenbosch University but that doesn’t mean his head will overrule his heart.

Khoza has committed his career to creating a development pipeline of talent involving over 50 “hubs” in rural areas built to provide opportunity for talented young cricketers who might otherwise never have had a chance. It is one of the best-intentioned initiatives in Cricket SA’s history — and also one of the most impractical and financially draining. Would he concede that it is failing?

As the architect behind the most successful and one of only three financially independent provinces in the country, would Faul agree that the “haves” should give more to the “have nots”? Would that be within the remit and responsibility of his current position? Like the rest of the panel, he has seen the effects of directing good money after bad.

Breetzke, meanwhile, has been more acutely aware of the looming financial crisis than many members of the Cricket SA board or members council, for many years. But his job demands that he fights for the rights and livelihoods of the 300+ members of his union, the professional cricketers of SA. He would be remiss in his duty if he was seen or heard to be advocating a reduction in those numbers, even if he knows it makes sense for the majority.

Cricket SA has 23 professional teams under its wing — 15 professional men’s provinces, six women’s teams and the men’s and women’s national teams. Adding to the expense are SA A teams and tours and the national under-19 teams. It cannot, and in all likelihood, will never be able to fund such largesse, as desirable as it might be.

Let’s say the panel agree radical change is necessary. Who will present the report to the sports minister? And the presidents on the members’ council — and everyone else? Tjaart van der Walt may be the right person to chair the review, given his knowledge and experience, but his appointment is, as they say in rugby, a “hospital pass”.

Cricket SA has a “history” of reviews and inquiries. Haroon Lorgat commissioned two during his time as CEO — both with highly regarded and qualified members, including Francois Pienaar. Neither saw the public light of day. Nkwe announced another review into the Proteas dismal exit from the last T20 World Cup after defeat to the Netherlands. He said it would be conducted within two weeks. It never happened. Too complicated.

If this one is to have any chance of success, it may need a “frontman or woman”. Someone with a passion for the game but no personal or professional skin in the game. Someone who can tell the politicians: “You can accuse me of anything you want and call me any name you like, but these are the facts.”

Someone like RMB’s Paul Harris, perhaps, who has never had a provincial affiliation and served not only as a board member on Cricket SA but as chair of the Fincom. He cares deeply about cricket and gave his time freely. Cricket SA’s Van der Walt would almost certainly be relieved to be relieved of the chair position and Harris, or someone similar, could present the findings with a clear conscience.

The best people have been named for this vital task, but they should be providing “evidence” to an independent panel, not attempting to conduct it themselves.

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