Brimstone’s T20GL departure threatens to stall tournament

SA franchise pulls out of cricket's Global League as conflict of interest rears its head

13 August 2017 - 00:30 By KHANYISO TSHWAKU
CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat. File photo.
CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat. File photo.

Brimstone Investment Corporation's departure from Cricket SA's T20 Global League (T20GL) has threatened to stall the tournament before it begins and robs it of South African participation.

While the announcement was made public on Friday, Sunday Times understands the decision to withdraw was made last week.

Brimstone's unexpected exit leaves Osman Osman's Pretoria-based Blu Blood as the only South African franchise owners.

A knock-on effect of Brimstone's abrupt decamping has seen the player auction that was initially slated to take place on August 19 being delayed by a week.

While the company cited in what Sunday Times understands as a "lack of interest in sport", the ugly head of conflict of interest was also a bone of contention. Sunday Times also understands that Brimstone wanted to be a part owner and not assume full responsibility for the franchise.

Cricket South Africa independent board member Mohammad Iqbal Khan, who was part of the evaluations committee that looked at the respective franchise bids, is Brimstone's chief financial officer.

Appendix A in the T20 Global League Team Owner Prospectus that looks after the grey area of the franchise ownership disqualification has section 1.1 which states the current CSA members or franchise persons are disqualified from owning a franchise.

Brimstone's chief executive Mustaq Brey said the novelty of the Global League made them have cold feet and they were always going to be part of a consortium. Brey also stressed Khan's employment with Brimstone wasn't the reason they pulled out.

"We found it quite difficult to get to actual numbers because it's the first year of the tournament and we knew we were going to have to use some modelling as to what to expect going forward," Brey said.

The relationships were fully disclosed and, after taking legal advice, CSA did not view the Brimstone opportunity as one that needed to be disqualified
Haroon Lorgat

"When we did all the numbers, we decided not to go ahead with the investment. Also, the company doesn't follow the model of full ownership and we follow the model of being good partners.

"When we made the decision to join, it was about being a consortium and not us being there alone. We can't take people into consortiums if we're not happy ourselves in terms of numbers. It comes back to rands and cents and I can't take people with me with the financial risk attached," he added.

CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat said all relationships that could have amounted to conflicts of interest were disclosed.

"The relationships were fully disclosed and, after taking legal advice, CSA did not view the Brimstone opportunity as one that needed to be disqualified," Lorgat said.

"Brimstone is a JSE-listed company and Mr Khan is an independent CSA director, not a CSA member or franchise owner.

"There was no oversight. In fact, Mr Khan was precluded from being involved in any adjudication on the Brimstone proposal.

"The head of CSA's audit and risk committee and also the chairman of the evaluation committee had taken legal advice and he had ensured that there was no involvement of Mr Khan in evaluating the Brimstone opportunity."

Lorgat said they have found it difficult to attract South African franchises and with only three months left before the slated November 3 start, there is a possibility CSA may have to take over the franchise.

He said they will still have eight teams in the tournament. "We are currently engaged with several bidders interested in acquiring the Stellenbosch franchise.

"We are sure there will be an owner in place but we need to follow our due diligence and evaluation processes so it won't be immediate.

"Although our preference is for the owner to be South African, we cannot guarantee that it will eventually be so.

"It is a fact that we have struggled to convince South Africans to become owners in the T20GL [Global League].

"There will definitely be a Stellenbosch team and the last resort would be for CSA to 'warehouse' the franchise until an owner eventually takes over."

Lorgat said the Global League will still take place on the set date and the moving of the auction dates was to allow the owners to have more time. "During the Owners Workshop in Dubai at the end of July, the owners requested more time to prepare for the Players Draft.

"That was perfectly understandable and we had no hesitation to agree to move a week later. Progress is on track and the tournament will kick off on November 3. We will soon be releasing the fixtures for the tournament and opening the ticket sales programme."