The first passengers on the Titanic to be told the ship was sinking were unlikely to have taken the message seriously. It was, after all, unsinkable.
Everyone knew that. It was a key factor in the marketing of the world’s greatest ocean liner.
Millions of people around the world live above fault lines and regions prone to tropical cyclones but they live from day to day reassuring themselves that the earthquake or storm won’t flatten their house, despite the sophistication of modern early warning systems.
Cricket South Africa has, this week, been facing a crisis the like of which nobody has seen before. Two Indian torpedo strikes have created enough damage to CSA’s financial planning for experts to forecast bankruptcy unless severe remedial action is taken now.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has followed through with the threat it made five months ago to reduce the length of the end of year to South Africa and the result will be a loss of revenue for Cricket South Africa in the region of R150-million. But that is just the beginning. If it was a ‘one-off’ strike as retribution for CSA’s decision to appoint BCCI antagonist Haroon Lorgat as its chief executive, it might be possible to survive it.
Cricket South Africa has financial reserves of R400-million but it costs in the region of R200-million a year to run the game in South Africa and those reserves will rapidly disappear without a lengthy tour by India to replenish them. Income from an Indian tour generates three times more than a tour by England and at least four and five times more than an Australian one. Incoming tours by the other Test-playing nations are in effect loss-leaders.
But it is not just South Africa’s international fixture list that is being sabotaged by India. The six domestic franchises in India have rapidly become dependent on the income from the T20 Champions League, which is 50% owned by the BCCI, 30% by Cricket Australia and 20% by CSA – at the moment. Menacingly, the CSA delegation was asked to leave the room – literally – at the last Champions League committee meeting when financial stake-holdings were discussed.
It is no secret that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has been seeking a more meaningful involvement in the tournament that brings together the domestic T20 champions from seven or eight nations for a lucrative 15-day tournament every year. Only the blind and terminally optimistic cannot see that South Africa are being muscled out – with devastating consequences if and when it happens.
England and Australia, meanwhile, have spent the past two years embedding themselves as deeply into India’s future tours schedule as possible and have each secured regular, lengthy and immensely lucrative tours for the next five years. Even if Lorgat and CSA are able to mend bridges – and it will probably require engineering at governmental level to accomplish that – it may take a decade before CSA returns to the level of financial stability it was forecasting just a few months ago.
The knock-on effects of becoming an outcast in the international cricket community are immense. A CSA financial committee meeting this week was already discussing ways in which to cut millions of rand from the annual budget.
Inevitably it was lower-level and grass-roots spending that was targeted. But the effects of the R150-million loss this year will also be felt at the very top of the pyramid.
The way in which the South African Cricketers Association pay structure is organised with Cricket South Africa sees all professional cricketers, both franchise and international, share a percentage of the national boards’ annual revenue. It has allowed franchises and CSA to become competitive in the salary market, although nowhere near the equal of England.
At least three currently contracted Proteas players have received offers of two- or three-year contracts from English counties, which would pay considerably more than their current CSA contracts. However, with R150-million removed from the national kitty, Proteas players could receive a reduction in salary of as much as R100 000 a year. The exodus of talent to the United Kingdom and other countries, which plagued South African cricket in the 1990s, could start all over again.
The Proteas enjoy a record-breaking 19-point lead at the top of the Test rankings yet have not played a Test match for six months. CSA was counted among the financial superpowers of the game six months ago, one of the elite “big four” with India, England and Australia. Yet they could be joining the beggars soon, lining up alongside Sri Lanka, the West Indies and New Zealand hoping for scraps from the BCCI’s loaded table. And there’s no point in looking to old friends for assistance. England and Australia have made their choice. When it comes to friends in international sport, money talks far louder than loyalty.
The back-stabbing, bitchy politicking of the past two years was embarrassing and unbecoming. But only now is it becoming clear what damage the post-Gerald Majola years did to the game. While our leaders bickered and squabbled, the other children in the playground moved away and formed a new gang.