CSA, Global T20 owners in further discord

Cricket South Africa (CSA) have been left floundering after two highly-charged meetings with former T20Global owners in Dubai and Mumbai. Last week’s meetings – described by one former owner as full of “fireworks” – were called to placate franchise holders with the sop that there might be a chance of private ownership in future tournaments.

This is despite CSA’s recent announcement that they have entered into an equity deal with SuperSport – an arrangement which precludes private owners, at least for the time being.

CSA’s placatory strategy didn’t work. In their individual capacities three owners – Hiren Bhanu (of the Centurion-based Mavericks), Ajay Sethi (of the Port Elizabeth-based Nelson Mandela Bay Stars) and Sameen Rana (of the Durban Qalandars) – came out of the meetings enraged.

They are now pursuing or are in the midst of pursuing legal action against the organisation.

Bhanu, the most vocal of the three, on Monday (August 13), sought an interdict against CSA which prevents them from playing any T20 tournament cricket out of Centurion, a venue to which he believes he has first refusal. “They’ve given us no alternative – we’re going ahead and suing them,” said Bhanu. “We have no choice. They are all liars.”

Bhanu was incandescent with rage after Saturday’s three-hour long afternoon meeting, taking particular issue with how satellite broadcaster SuperSport could suddenly be an equity partner after scuppering the broadcast deal for last year’s tournament. “How is it possible that we [as former owners] can get a stake later, when SuperSport are 49% partners in your new entity and you haven’t even asked their consent? It’s nonsense,” he said.

Sethi was similarly forthright. “They [CSA] have continuously changed their position and have shown no interest in working with the current T20Global League owners,” he said in a parallel statement. “As owners we now have no option but to go the legal route and consider all legal options to protect our interests.”

Not all owners raged quite as loudly as Bhanu and Sethi. While not happy, Sushil Kumar, of the Bloem City Blazers, was still prepared to indulge CSA’s request for a ten-day window so they could go back to their constituents for clarity. “Basically they’ve got ten days to get back to us with a decision on whether we [as former owners] have first right of refusal [on future tournaments],” he said.

“The problem is that we don’t really trust them. They told us that there weren’t going to be private owners for the next three years because [the CSA] Member’s Council don’t want it. This is complete bullshit.”

As well as their displeasure at the manner in which CSA have handled the postponement of last year’s inaugural T20Global, is the fact that several former owners have sought clarity on the exact nature of CSA’s relationship with SuperSport. “We asked them at the meeting if they have a signed contract with SuperSport and they couldn’t answer,” said a former owner. “When pressed, one of the CSA delegation told us that the only reason they got into bed with SuperSport was the [SA] sports’ minister put pressure on them to do so.”

If there is no signed contract between CSA and SuperSport then they are not only facing legal pressure from last year’s owners, but there are questions about the veracity of a deal CSA announced was in the bag months ago.

At the beginning of June, CSA spoke of a “ground-breaking deal” in which they and SuperSport would be equity partners for the new T20 tournament. “We have put the problems we experienced with the proposed Global T20 League behind us and look forward to hosting the new competition,” said Thabang Moroe, CSA’s new chief executive at the time.

SuperSport’s reluctance to put pen to paper could be explained that they are facing increasing criticism in South Africa for the fact that they are a monopoly, often with cheek-by-jowl links to the ANC-government.

Former owners’ further point out that in getting into bed with SuperSport, CSA are effectively raffling off their most important piece of inventory – their broadcast rights – for next to nothing. “We’re offering them 70-million dollars for an eleven-year deal and they’re turning their back on that in favour of an equity partnership with the guys who broke last year’s tournament? It just makes no sense,” said one former owner.

A conservative estimate for losses already incurred from last year’s postponed tournament puts the figure at R220-million but with pending legal action, the costs could sky-rocket even further. Since the 2017 postponement, both the UAE and Canada have got their own T20 jamborees off the ground. This is clearly beyond the capacities of Cricket SA.

CSA were approached for their comment on the same but failed to respond to questions. “Unfortunately there will be no comment from CSA regarding these matters as the chief executive has not met with the board,” their acting communications officer, Koketso Gaofetoge, told Cricbuzz.

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