‘Inflated bonuses crippled the game’

Cricket administrators travelled on business-class gravy planes around the world — with their partners in tow — and rewarded themselves with ballooning bonuses fuelled by increasing television revenue, while the sport at grassroots level continued to suffer, the ministerial committee investigating the affairs of Cricket South Africa heard on Thursday.

Don McIntosh, former chief financial officer for the cricket body, told the committee, chaired by retired Judge Chris Nicholson, that until the Indian Premier League-induced spat between Cricket South Africa president Mtutuzeli Nyoka and chief executive Gerald Majola that has opened up a Pandora’s Box of lavish living and alleged illegal behaviour, the two had enjoyed a cosy relationship. This saw them signing off on each other’s travel and expense claims.

Majola, according to the organisation’s 2010-2011 annual report, received a R1.13-million bonus for his part in bringing the Indian Premier League (IPL) to South Africa in 2009. With his Cricket South Africa (CSA) bonus of R1.4-million, authorised by Nyoka and the board, and a R644 000 bonus for his part in South Africa hosting the ICC Champions Trophy in 2009, and combined with other benefits, Majola cost South African cricket R5.3-million in the last financial year.

His riches are in direct contrast to the state of cricket on the ground, according to the testimony of former Gauteng Cricket Board chairperson Barry Skjoldhammer, who spoke of “every single [cricket] club [in the province] struggling at the moment, aside from the university cricket clubs”.

Skjoldhammer said that clubs in formerly disadvantaged areas were “bleeding” because of a lack of funds. He said that the Soweto Oval was not used because its drainage system had not been repaired in years. Similarly, pitches in townships such as Kagiso and Alexandra were in a state of disrepair because “cricket pitches, like golf courses, require maintenance and there doesn’t appear to be funds for this”.

Yet CSA’s revenue for the last financial year totalled R727-million and the organisation has assets of about R706-million. Skjoldhammer estimated that over R1-billion had been pumped into the game in the past eight years as broadcast interest in the sport grew.

Nicholson appeared disturbed and queried whether a section 21 company with a “duty” to “devote its money exclusively to cricket” and development of the game, especially in formerly disadvantaged areas, should be paying such huge salaries to administrators.

Skjoldhammer gave what has been a stock response this week: that market prices determined what was paid to full-time employees in cricket’s commercial arm.

Cricket’s dichotomous nature — its professional and commercial side and the amateur, grassroots side — was exposed this week. McIntosh spoke of this “inherent clash” in the game and told of how he had presidents of provincial unions, “maybe earning R200 000 as a teacher”, walking up to him with an eye on a permanent job at CSA because they saw the multimillion-rand packages on offer.

Nicholson asked Skjoldhammer if the fact that presidents of provincial affiliates were “in a queue to get money from the [CSA] chief executive officer for their provinces won’t challenge him because they will go to the back of the queue” had led to a compliant board.

Skjoldhammer replied in the affirmative.

These themes were revisited during the testimony of various officials who gave testimony on Wednesday. Cricket South Africa’s president Abdul (AK) Khan, defended his commission’s recommendation, endorsed by the board, that Majola merely be reprimanded for alleged breaches of the Companies Act. He said: “Cricket South Africa is a diverse organisation and we are learning to run it as a business — It is unreasonable to expect us to know everything [about the Companies Act].”

This view was echoed by audit committee chairperson John Blair, who said Majola had erred in not disclosing his IPL bonus to the board, as required by the Companies Act, “because of his naiveté — He didn’t have any induction as a director [when CSA became a section 21 company three years ago] so he didn’t really know what was required of him as a director — We know him as a cricket man and we want to keep him.”

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Niren Tolsi
Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist whose interests include social justice, citizen mobilisation and state violence, protest, the Constitution and Constitutional Court, football and Test cricket.

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