GLT20 franchise owners threaten legal action against CSA

Cricket South Africa’s planning for a new Twenty20 league has been sent back into crisis mode by a volley of public missives from some of the eight owners who were awarded franchise rights for the T20 Global League. After maintaining their silence for the better part of eight months in the wake of the T20GL’s postponement, three owners have publicly threatened legal action against CSA in the past week while a fourth is known to be similarly irate by CSA’s decision to strike a deal with broadcaster SuperSport behind their backs.

Following on from Qalandars owner Sameen Rana’s comments at the weekend, the respective owners of the Nelson Mandela Bay and Bloemfontein City franchises have come out this week with increasingly scathing letters. The mounting pressure led CSA to call an emergency board meeting on Wednesday (June 27) to deal with the crisis, which extends beyond the realms of the league to the behaviour of senior CSA management towards the owners.

The immediate matter on hand is the threat of impending legal action, and the question of whether the franchise owners have a case against CSA. A source with knowledge of the franchise process told Cricbuzz that they would, since the owners followed a public tender process and submitted binding offers for the franchises. By accepting the offers and awarding the teams for those cities, CSA would have effectively constituted an agreement. With CSA having subsequently struck an equity deal with SuperSport for the new league and intimated that the private owners would no longer be involved, the owners have made it clear in their public statements that they “reserve their rights” to the franchises.

The other theme of the statements which stretches beyond the question of the league is CSA’s treatment of the owners, and how this reflects on the management who have taken responsibility for the project since chief executive Haroon Lorgat left the organisation in September. “We feel that they terminated the CEO to manipulate the process,” wrote Ajay Sethi, the owner of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars franchise. “This is totally unethical and no federation will do that in any part of the world.”

However, the most stinging accusations came from Sushil Kumar, the owner of the Bloemfontein City Blazers. Kumar said he had made two visits to South Africa after failing to gain an adequate response from CSA on what was happening with the league.

“The first visit was on the 24th of February during the T20I between South Africa and India at Newlands where the sense of feeling was that the Board members were being fed false information with regards to the owners’ intentions going forward and the Board were informed that all owners wanted out, thus, the model of private ownership was off the table. This was not true, and the undersigned reiterated the owners were committed to the Global League T20 and a week later it was announced that Cricket South Africa will open discussions with all team owners to renegotiate revised financial and operational terms. This reiterates Mr Ajay Sethi’s statement, owners of the Nelson Mandela Stars, dated 26 June 2018 that certain individuals had their own agendas and tried to manipulate the process,” Kumar wrote.

“During our latest visit in May 2018 to meet with CSA officials to sort out any clarifications they needed with regard to our deposits and the expenses, an email prior to my arrival was sent to the Executive office seeking an audience which went un-responded. No one from CSA’s Executive Office was ready to meet or have the courtesy to speak with us and it was quite an embarrassment for us to keep pushing CSA just for an audience having travelled all the way from our home country, just to resolve issues which were never caused by us.

“However, the intentions became clear when the announcement of the new league and new partnership with Supersport was announced in the media. The writing was on the wall that the present owners had no place in the newly announced league. This was evident in the fact that the last form of discussion with CSA and all owners was a teleconference meeting on March 13th where it was decided by all parties that CSA would go back to Supersport to discuss; i) a proposal from Supersport on the original model, ii) Supersport should suggest an alternate model if not in favor of the original model or iii) look at a league co-owned between CSA, owners and the broadcaster. CSA then went behind the owners back and struck a deal with Supersport excluding the current owners and without providing any information on the above said deal. It was rather disappointing and very unprofessional that no one at CSA had the decency to contact us first and make us aware of the decision that was taken.”

Kumar said that his franchise had taken the matter up with South Africa’s consul general in Hong Kong, and requested that South Africa’s sports minister get involved. “Vested interests and personality clashes within the management of CSA is only affecting the reputation of the Board,” Kumar wrote. “We will be actively following up through the Ministry of Sport and looking forward to an early resolve to this matter. We at Bloem City Blazers want to see the league up and running with the present interested owners.”

Responding to the accusations and threats from the owners, CSA said in a statement: “CSA does not intend to debate the matter through the media and as per our last letter to the owners remain available to any party who wishes to engage in the current process of planning the tournament. CSA indicated from the off set that the key revenue streams must first be secured re broadcasting rights and potential sponsors before detail of the tournament can be finalised. Once that have (sic) taken place engagement with other stakeholders will be possible.”

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