Cape Town – The South African Cricketers Association (SACA) says it is "very surprised" at South Africa's Cricket (CSA) suspension of three senior officials this week.
Acting director of cricket Corrie van Zyl, chief operating officer Naasei Appiah and head of sales and sponsorship Clive Eksteen were all suspended on Tuesday, with CSA alleging they had neglected their duty in a payment dispute between SACA and CSA relating to last year's Mzansi Super League.
In November 2018, SACA and CSA had a signed commercial rights agreement relating to the granting of players commercial rights for use in the 2018 MSL.
According to the agreement, a fee of R2.5 million was due to be paid from CSA to the Players Trust by December 24 last year – and that did not happen.
When SACA launched an official dispute with CSA earlier in the month, that sparked CSA into action that ultimately resulted in suspensions.
CSA told Sport24 on Wednesday that the suspensions were part of a "clean up of the organization" and that players not being paid were something they took very seriously.
However, in an explosive statement released on Thursday, SACA suggested that the dispute over the R2.5 million was not the most important issue in their battle with CSA currently.
Through their CEO Tony Irish, SACA also suggested that they had no dealings with Appiah in relation to the commercial rights deal while both Van Zyl and Eksteen had sought to resolve the matter.
"We are very surprised that Naasei Appiah, Corrie van Zyl and Clive Eksteen have been suspended in relation to allegations surrounding CSA's non-compliance with the 2018 MSL commercial agreement," said SACA's chief executive Irish.
"SACA didn't deal with Appiah on this issue and in its dealings with Van Zyl and Extra 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 CSA's chief executive, Thabang Moroe, would not have been aware of this ongoing issue. He was undoubtedly aware of payment obligations as he had signed the agreement."
The SACA statement then provided a timeline of events leading up to the dispute with CSA and then the suspensions.
It reads as follows:
– On 14 October 2019 SACA referenced the breach of the 2018 MSL commercial agreement in correspondence sent, inter alia, to Moroe. SACA received no response to this.
– On 16 October 2019 SACA sent a mail to Exteen, copied to Moroe, stating that if not urgently resolved SACA would have no alternative but to proceed with a formal notice of dispute relating to the 2018 MSL agreement and also recording that CSA had yet to sign a 2019 MSL commercial agreement to secure the use of the player commercial rights for the 2019 MSL.
– On 17 October 2019 Extra indicated that CSA was now prepared to resolve the matter. On the same day SACA sent the necessary settlement agreement to CSA with a deadline to sign by 21 October 2019. This deadline was simply ignored and no response was received.
– On 23 October 2019 SACA gave notice of a formal dispute relating to the 2018 MSL agreement and CSA's failure to make agreed payments.
– On 29 October 2019 the matter was eventually settled and a 2019 MSL commercial agreement was signed. Players were due to do commercial activities to promote the 2019 MSL on 30 October 2019.
"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 30 October 2019," Irish added.
"In the absence of an agreement CSA would not have had the rights to use the players in the activations.
"SACA also believes that CSA'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 marginalize SACA and the role that it plays in protecting the collective interests of the players. SACA is a fully recognized players association representing every professional cricketer in South Africa and the Players Trust holds all of the players commercial rights. It is not a 'intermediary player' as suggested by CSA. "
This issue is the latest in what has become a strained relationship between CSA and SACA.
SACA is currently in the process of taking CSA to court in an effort to prevent a radical domestic restructuring that will see the franchise system scrapped with six sides expanding into 12 provincial first-class sides.
SACA has concerns over how the restructure will be financially viable and it has repeatedly requested for CSA to reveal their exact financial situation.
"On 24 February 2019 and 27 March 2019 SACA wrote letters to CSA, inter alia, expressing concerns relating to CSA's financial situation, its failure to provide financial information, despite having agreed to do so, and the need to properly engage SACA on any proposed domestic restructure. CSA failed to reply to either of these letters, "the statement continued.
"On 5 April 2019 CSA took a decision to restructure the domestic cricket without responding to SACA's concerns, without consultation with it and in clear breach of a recognition agreement signed by SACA and CSA which provided for a specific consultation process before any restructuring could happen. CSA simply ignored SACA's concerns expressed over this breach.
"Since April 2019 SACA has been barred from attending CSA sub-committee meetings including its finance and commercial committee, its chief executives committee and its cricket committee. CSA is in breach of its own terms of reference in relation to some of these sub-committees which provide for SACA's attendance.
"In 2016 CSA had a comprehensive review of its domestic cricket structure, led externally by Ernst and Young. In taking the decision to restructure domestic cricket some two years later CSA disregarded key outcomes and recommendations of this review.
"As a last resort SACA filed an application in the High Court on 29 May 2019 seeking to overturn CSA's domestic restructure decision. CSA 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.This has led to significant delays in the court proceedings and created uncertainty, and player anxiety, in relation to what will happen in the domestic cricket next season.
"On 24 August 2019 SACA and CSA met in an attempt to resolve the issues related to the domestic restructure and to discuss both the CSA / SACA relationship and SACA's concerns relating to CSA's financial situation.
"At the meeting it was agreed firstly that CSA would conduct an external review of its longer term financial position and secondly that SACA and CSA would put in place a" roadmap "and facilitation process to attempt to resolve the relationship issue and the domestic restructure issue by the end of October 2019.
"As was also agreed, and to ensure the process was committed to writing, SACA sent a draft roadmap agreement to CSA on 26 August 2019.
"Despite requests made by SACA to CSA for it to respond CSA failed to do so for seven weeks thus rendering the attempted roadmap and facilitation process unworkable and ineffective. CSA has also failed to act on agreement to conduct an external review of its finances. "
Irish then added that any investigations into the MSL commercial rights deal and the suspensions should be carried out by an independent body.
"We note CSA's statement that it has taken decisive action to protect player interest and the game and that it is conducting an investigation into the matter relating to the non-payment of the 2018 MSL agreement," said Irish.
"We also note the statement by CSA's chief executive that CSA adheres to the highest ethical standards in all its dealings and that consistency and accountability remain uppermost in its processes and procedures.
"SACA believes that the issues 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.
"We also note the statement of CSA's head of communications, Thamie Mthembu, that CSA's investigation would go deeper into uncovering how the MSL dispute came about.
"SACA accordingly calls upon CSA not only to ensure that its investigation into this MSL issue is conducted by an independent person, or organization, but also that an independent investigation is carried out into these related matters.
"We believe that this will ensure that the principle of accountability, referred to by CSA's chief executive, is in fact applied equally, fairly and without fear or favor."
The second edition of the MSL is set to get underway on November 8, while Irish is set to leave SACA at the end of the year to take a job in England as the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA).
– Compiled by Lloyd Burnard