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Norman Arendse pens impassioned open letter to embattled Cricket SA

03 December 2019 - 06:50 By Khanyiso Tshwaku
Norman Arendse during the CSA Annual General Meeting at ORTIA Inter-Continental Hotel on September 08, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has penned an open letter to Cricket SA
Norman Arendse during the CSA Annual General Meeting at ORTIA Inter-Continental Hotel on September 08, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has penned an open letter to Cricket SA
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

Norman Arendse has written an open letter to Cricket SA and appealed to the beleaguered sports body to act against maladministration and the banning of journalists.

A reeling CSA has found itself in the news for all the wrong reasons after five journalists had their accreditations revoked this past weekend‚ rendering them unable to work at Mzansi Super League games in Cape Town and Johannesburg this past weekend.

CSA officials were summoned to a meeting by their biggest sponsor Standard Bank on Monday night to explain a decision that was greeted by wide condemnation from the SA National Editors Forum‚ the SA Cricketer's Association and the nation's cricket lovers.

The bank is the title sponsor of the Men's Test and ODI team while it also looks after some of CSA's development projects.

Arendse‚ an experienced senior advocate who served as CSA president in 2008 and also served as a lead independent director in the same organisation after the Nicholson report recommended that the organisation have independent directors serving on their board‚ has implored his former colleagues to right the listing cricket ship.

In an impassioned open letter‚ which is below‚ Arendse said his position has yet to be filled and the board must not forget its administrative and fiduciary duties.

“It is painful to pen this letter‚" he said.

"However‚ there is just too much at stake to permit our great sport of cricket to fall any further. Silence would be much more painful. Therefore‚ I write this open letter of appeal to our cricket family members‚ the CSA board‚ the CSA members council and the paid CSA administrators to act before it is too late‚”

“I suspect‚ however‚ that the horse has bolted‚ and that we are beyond the precipice‚ and into the abyss.

“As a former CSA president‚ and until just over a year ago‚ the CSA lead independent director‚ I have the utmost respect for prescribed procedures and protocols to be followed when differences arise within the cricket family.’

“It appears‚ however‚ that for several reasons that have manifested publicly‚ the family differences cannot and will not be resolved through the prescribed route.

“What prompts me to say this is not sourced from any insider knowledge or some whistle-blower; they are sourced in CSA’s own public pronouncements and written media statements: the restructuring of our domestic competitions; the concentration of power in the hands of the CEO to make key appointments (approved by the CSA board); the failure to make key board committee appointments including the failure to appoint the independent lead director (after more than a year since the election of the board; the suspension of senior executive officials; the ongoing dispute with SACA; and the recent dispute with Western Province Cricket which ended in a humiliating loss to Cricket South Africa at arbitration.

“These issues are all well-documented and are public knowledge. The last straw must surely be the most recent banning by CSA of several highly respected cricket journalists who collectively have decades of experience in cricket. (Some of them I have disagreed with both privately and publicly‚ but it never entered my mind to suggest or propose that they are banned from the game).

“Their banning is unconstitutional‚ and unlawful‚ and must be deplored by all cricket-lovers.

“The future sustainability of cricket is also at grave risk given the public CSA pronouncement of a projected shortfall of hundreds of millions of Rands. It appears that the culling of franchise cricket as we know it is a direct response to CSA’s financial woes.

“I do not wish to be hypocritical or self-serving. As a veteran cricket administrator‚ I have learnt to accept constructive criticism (especially from well-meaning and experienced cricket journalists)‚ and from members of the public who know their cricket.

“Along the way‚ mistakes have been made. All of us in the cricket family thought that Nicholson would be the panacea for all our cricket ills. Indeed‚ my six years on a restructured CSA Board proved that this was the case – well‚ almost!

“This was a honeymoon period for cricket: we ranked among the best in the world in all formats of the game; we were highly respected at ICC level;

“Our transformation strategy appeared to be working with an exponential increase in the number of Black African players‚ in particular‚ representing the country at the highest level; and‚ the exponential increase of black African cricketers participating at franchise and provincial level; and financially we reached the billion Rand mark (even before our own National Soccer League did!).

“We had over R600 million in reserve. These reserves have now dwindled dramatically‚ and with the unsponsored Mzansi League‚ these reserves will likely be depleted shortly.

“Lastly‚ the utterances of CSA’s head of media and communications Thamie Mthembu rank with those of Saddam Hussein’s spokesman “Baghdad Bob” or better known as “Comical Ali”.

“The CEO’s recent interview has also not inspired any confidence that he is capable of arresting CSA’s decline‚ let alone turning around the organisation to put it on a more secure and sustainable footing.

“All of the above leads me to one very sad conclusion: the CSA board has simply abdicated its fiduciary responsibilities by failing to act with the due care‚ skill and diligence required of it by the Companies Act‚ and the CSA constitution. To the extent that the CSA members council are aware of the abovementioned shortcomings and failures of governance‚ they too must share responsibility‚ and be held accountable.

“I never‚ ever thought I would do something like this‚ but I have plucked up the courage to do so not only to appease my own conscience‚ but also in response to the many‚ many expressions of concern I have received from across the cricket family: past and present administrators‚ past and present cricketers of all colours‚ all persuasions‚ all communities and all religious groupings.

“I‚ therefore‚ call on the board and the members council to meet urgently to consider the matters raised in this letter‚ and to hold the CEO (and those who have been complicit) to account.

“I have shared the contents of this letter with Advocate Vusi Pikoli (former Independent Member of the CSA board‚ and past chairperson of the CSA social and ethics committee) who endorses the sentiments expressed in this letter.”

“Norman Arendse SC”