Olive twig needed
By the time cricket lovers and followers read this, an outbreak of peace may have brought the Gauteng Cricket Board (GCB) and Cricket South Africa (CSA) together in a flurry of warm embraces and promises not to fight so publicly and embarrassingly again.
Robert Mugabe might also admit that he’s buggered up the Zimbabwean economy and hand back some of his secret, personal fortune, and who knows, perhaps al-Qaeda might forsake violence and opt for arbitration in its dispute with the rest of the world.
Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile has spent several hours already speaking to both parties and trying to get to the bottom of the vicious and spiteful stand-off that was started by the hosting of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in South Africa at CSA’s invitation.
“There was a pot of about R8-million to cover any unforeseen or incidental costs incurred by the eight hosting venues,” said a source close to the epicentre. “CSA think it’s a bit rich, in every sense, for the GCB to claim more than 60% of that money despite only hosting eight of 56 matches—and then accuse CSA of mismanagement.”
The “accusation” by the GCB was inflammatory and provocative but was, nonetheless, based on facts and figures and their constitutional right to question the game’s national administrators.
If and when formal mediation actually starts, there appears to be a consensus outside CSA headquarters that only one conclusion is possible: GCB acted irresponsibly and disrespectfully, but CSA acted unlawfully. In other words, there could be only one winner if the matter went to court, and it wouldn’t be CSA.
“In the first place you can’t punish someone for criticising you and asking questions. Second, CSA passed their motion to remove three international matches from the Wanderers through the Members’ Forum, which has absolutely no authority to do anything like that,” said another source. “We all feel very sad that things have got so out of control—there’s a lot of bitterness and anger on both sides—but, whichever side your emotions lie, it’s pretty clear that CSA would be cleaned up if this ever goes the legal route, so we have to hope that arbitration works.”
Outside Johannesburg there is even more sadness about the pusillanimous clash of egos at the Wanderers and, interestingly, a lack of either belief or celebration in Durban, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth that the Pro20, ODI and Test matches scheduled for the Wanderers would, in fact, be moving to new venues.
“Naturally we are aware that there may be an element of a ‘threat’ in CSA’s announcement,” said Eastern Cape Warriors chief executive Dave Emslie. “Being awarded a Test match in these circumstances is hardly ideal. I have no doubt that we have the capability, skill and passion to host the match, but there is still an arbitration process to take place and, for the good of cricket in the whole country, we have to hope that it is successful,” Emslie said.
CSA chief executive Gerald Majola is also said to be privately “saddened” that the spat spiralled so quickly and nastily out of control. Although his momentary loss of control and perspective could be understood after the GCB’s not-too-subtle insinuation that he had benefited personally from the IPL’s visit, it could not be forgiven. Administrators in his position cannot afford to lose their tempers or take things personally.
As a consequence he and CSA president Ntutuzeli Nyoka find themselves backed into an impossible corner. If they persist with their (unconstitutional) stance, they will be sued for many millions of rands and they will almost certainly have to pay up. They will even have to pay compensation to the estimated 4 000 England fans who have already paid to be in Johannesburg for the fourth Test but will have to move to Port Elizabeth.
If they back down without honour or support, their positions will surely become untenable and they will be forced to resign, having instigated such an embarrassing mess.
But if they are able to reinstate the Wanderers matches and claim an honourable draw—or any kind of draw—the situation might be saved, although their personal relationships with GCB officials are almost certainly beyond repair. For that to happen there will need to be an olive branch (or maybe just a twig) and a sprinkling of mea culpa from the GCB.