CSA's so-stinky potjie
CSA directors can expect a few bouncers after T20 fiasco
In the wake of the T20 Global tournament’s postponement, the furore about Cricket SA’s contract with a London deal maker is hotting up
A question: "How many Cricket SA (CSA) board members does it take to change a light bulb?" Answer: "Just one, but do you mind waiting while he eats his free lunch first?"
The role of CSA’s board members in general — and the five independents Norman Arendse (lead), Louis von Zeuner, Vusi Pikoli, Iqbal Khan and Dawn Mokhobo in particular — is coming increasingly under the spotlight in the wake of the Haroon Lorgat crisis.
Lorgat and the board separated two weeks ago, with CSA citing a breakdown of trust. When Lorgat and the organisation "parted ways", the T20 Global, CSA’s money-spinning foray into the T20 market scheduled for early November, was still on the cards. But 10 days ago, the tournament was postponed until 2018.
Some board members even believe Lorgat should be prosecuted, with calls for a full forensic audit into the T20 Global tournament
Admittedly, CSA was between a rock and a hard place on the tournament’s future. But the postponement brought considerable damage. CSA is now back in the reputational twilight world they occupied during the latter stages of the Gerald Majola crisis of 2012. Questions are being asked about oversight and scrutiny. At this point they have been met with deafening silence.
So overheated has the boardroom temperature become that there was a board meeting on Sunday at which Ross Alcock from ENSafrica offered the board legal counsel on Lorgat and related matters. The Financial Mail understands that the behind-the-scenes situation is far, far worse than expected, and the organisation is reeling at the extent of the mess.
There is a section of the board that believes Lorgat should be prosecuted, with Pikoli flexing his old NPA muscle in this regard. There is even talk of a full forensic audit into the competition.
Much board dissatisfaction revolves around CSA’s commercial relationship with Ortus Sport & Entertainment, run by Venu Nair, a London-based Indian with a colourful past.
Rather than two more internationally established rights practitioners, IMG and Lagardere, Ortus was given the sole rights to selling sponsorship and broadcast properties to the T20 Global tournament on behalf of CSA, though the board has its doubts about the contract.
Nair, a former Lagardere employee, resigned from his job in February; in April he formed Ortus. With no organisational track record of rights sales or clients to speak of, he suddenly became the sole agency for CSA’s commercial properties, its primary revenue earners.
In the event, the tournament was postponed largely because Nair was unable to close the international and local broadcast rights sales deals CSA had hoped for.
When the 2017 edition of T20 Global was postponed it was a tournament without a headline sponsor, without an international deal (this is made more difficult because no Indian cricketers are playing in the tournament) and without a local deal on SuperSport.
Ten days ago, Thabang Moroe, the acting CSA chief executive who succeeded Lorgat, and Naasei Appiah, the chief financial officer, flew to London for a meeting with Nair. CSA is desperate to annul its contract with Ortus, with the board arguing that the contract is invalid. Nair is arguing that his relationship with CSA is legally binding, as is the contract. The likely compromise may cost CSA tens of millions of rand, adding to the ballooning costs of an expensive misadventure in which money has been tossed around. Tournament launches and player auctions, with live streamings, have apparently cost millions of rand already. So much for CSA’s commitment to development.
As more facts bubble to the surface of the increasingly stinky CSA potjie, so the role of the independent directors comes into the spotlight.
At best they have been lazy and complacent in asking the appropriate questions.
It is not difficult to do an Internet search about Nair or Ortus (which is, in effect, a shell). From the beginning there were too many unanswered questions. Flags should have been raised early, when lack of transparency seemed to be set in stone and Lorgat’s relationship with Appiah went from bad to worse.
And the provinces are getting restless. Northerns had a board meeting at Centurion on Monday and the board is likely to give its president a mandate to call for a fully fledged independent investigation. This will be echoed by the Lions and by Tony Irish, chief executive of the SA Cricketers’ Association (which has already called for such an initiative).
The Financial Mail understands there was an off-line meeting between interested parties at Paarl during the second ODI against Bangladesh on Wednesday night. There is a deep subterranean rumbling in cricket.
The aftershocks will get worse before they get better.