United Cricket Board Activities and Finances: briefing

Sports, Arts and Culture

13 September 2005
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Meeting report

The CEO of the United Cricket Board reported to the Committee on four main issues

SPORT AND RECREATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
13 September 2005
UNITED CRICKET BOARD ACTIVITIES AND FINANCES: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr B Kompela (ANC)

Documents handed out:
United Cricket Board PowerPoint presentation
United Cricket Board Annual Report (on UCB website:
www.cricket.co.za)

SUMMARY

The CEO of the United Cricket Board reported to the Committee on four main issues. These were the proposed franchise system for domestic professional cricket, development programmes in amateur cricket, the financial status of the UCB for the next four years, and mass participation in women’s cricket.

Also on the agenda was the dispute that had arisen between the Griqualand West Cricket Board franchise and the UCB. The Committee heard a short presentation on the issue by the Griquas Board and suggested ways in which the issue could be resolved amicably.

MINUTES
The Chairperson started that the Committee should pay tribute to Mr Etienne Botha who had passed away recently. His contribution to and love for the game of rugby should be remembered.

United Cricket Board briefing
The CEO of the United Cricket Board, Mr Gerald Majola, reported that a new franchise system had been adopted for the 2004/2005 season following concerns raised by their Finance Committee and other stakeholders after the 2001/2002 season. They were concerned that the competition was too great and that the standard of cricket had dropped. These lowering standards were alienating broadcast sponsors and the public. Six franchises had been adopted across the whole country: the Goodyear Eagles, Highveld Lions, Mercedes Warriors, Nashua Dolphins, Nashua Titans and Nashua Western Province Boland.

The UCB reported that amateur cricket had found a major sponsor, and had established 48 of 54 proposed regional schools of excellence around the country. The International Women’s Cricket Board rated the 2005 Women’s Cricket World Cup hosted in South Africa last season as the best ever held. Women’s cricket was still in need of greater sponsorship. The UCB reported that its revenue streams were dependent on international television rights. Although the strong dollar had hurt its finances, last year it made a R8.5 million profit, completing a R16 million turnaround from the previous year.

Discussion
The Chairperson said the Committee had been informed that the UCB had filed for bankruptcy, and asked for clarification on the financial situation. On the Griqualand West question, he emphasised that because the matter was being discussed in court, formal discussion would be sub judice.

The Chairperson questioned to what extent the UCB had engaged with the issue of employment and job creation. He also asked how the 64 Cricket Schools of Excellence had been distributed across the country.

Mr G Majola responded that the UCB’s Annual Report alluded to employment equity and their progress. A recent survey had found the Board to be among the top 100 Black Economic Empowerment companies in the country. Black entrepreneurs had been employed in the new Schools of Excellence. One of the conditions imposed by government when granting funds to the Board for the development of these centres, was that they created jobs for the local public.

Mr L Reid (ANC) raised the issue of the number of black players in the teams under the new franchise system. Previously there had been quite a few black players but with amalgamation, the numbers in each team seemed to have dropped. What about teams buying black players?

Mr C Frolick (ANC) felt that as soon as black players from previously disadvantaged backgrounds reached a certain level, they were poached by teams from richer areas. Thus, they did not remain in their communities to pass on their skills to other budding cricketers.

Mr Majola said that the overall number of players had been reduced under the franchise system, not necessarily just the black players. The targets for integration had not been reduced. Forty percent of all contract players had to be black, and each team had to field a minimum of four black players. Furthermore, Mr Vincent van der Byl, a former Springbok cricketer, had been assigned to ‘keep tabs’ on player appointments. The UCB could not keep players in one place because that denied them the chance for advancement.

Ms Khathi felt that the UCB had still not become gender-sensitive. Women in cricket were still being denied leadership positions. Furthermore, she questioned the need for a separate women’s board. Why not simply have one-third female representation on the original cricket board?

Mr Majola responded that the UCB was ‘self-critical’, but there was still work to be done in transforming gender representation in cricket. Women’s cricket was still new and growing, and thus it seemed inappropriate to had one-third female representation on the council at this stage.

Mr E Saloojee (ANC) felt that the national team reflected a racial composition largely unchanged from that under apartheid. The UCB simply had not advanced in developing cricketers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Even the current young cricketers’ development projects seemed to cater mainly for white players.

Mr V Mgadle said that the majority of inter-school matches took place between ‘white schools’. When ‘black schools’ played against ‘white schools’, the former inevitably had to travel to the grounds of the latter. He also asked for a breakdown of the number of black players in the six new franchises. If black players were not sufficiently included in these teams, they could never advance their careers.

Mr Majola responded that there were compulsory quotas for black players. The Centres of Excellence had been established partly to cater for schools that could not afford a cricket ground. Many white children were in fact going to black areas for cricket coaching and were assimilating well.

Mr T Lee (DA) commented that South Africa crucially seemed to lack a strong club system. He was thus pleased that the UCB was focussing on club cricket again. Sponsorship was still greatly needed, but the deal reached with SA Airways was a positive step. Mr Lee emphasised that that for clubs to be ‘healthy’, it was crucial that cricket flourish at school level. Development and selection, however, should not only take place at Model C schools. The UCB had to ensure that selectors were impartial and that they ‘knew their cricket’.

Mr Majola responded that the panel understood the targets for transformation. There was also a board to monitor the selection panel. A ‘high-performance centre’ had been established to ensure that good cricketers got a chance to prove themselves. He clarified that the SAA sponsorship was for amateur provincial cricket only, not club cricket.

The Chairperson had further questions on the new franchise system. He asked for clarifications on the problems encountered with government in demarcating the new provincial teams. The issue was a matter of law and the UCB needed to clarify the process. The commission headed by Kader Asmal had failed their mandate to investigate whether the new franchises represented transformation in cricket. The status quo remained. Selection was a "political terrain in the struggle against racism".

Mr Frolick asked the UCB to mention the key factors that had informed their decision to maintain the status quo.

Mr R Mali (UCB President) responded that Kader Asmal’s Commission had not decided that the status quo should remain. The UCB had decided on 6 August that the status quo should continue until the dispute with Griqualand West had been resolved. Regarding the demarcation of the new franchises, he said that when a team was selected, that selection was taken to the President for approval. This was to ensure that the selection adhered to the relevant norms and standards.

Mr Saloojee commented that Gauteng cricket was in crisis. There was blatant racial discrimination at a club level. What were the UCB’s plans for transformation in Gauteng? Mr Majola responded that the main problems in Gauteng could be resolved if they changed their constitution into line with other provinces.

Mr Reid stated that the UCB had not satisfactorily answered the question of the inclusion of black players. He asked whether racial transformation was a criteria in awarding the franchises.

Mr Mali responded that all the professional teams from the six franchises currently had to have no fewer than four black players on the field in matches. Where a good black player could not play due to injury or suchlike, one had to accept that fact. It was not acceptable to simply bring on ‘any old black player’ simply to fulfil the quota. The teams had to maintain a certain standard. It was thus important for the UCB to work on widening the pool of good black players.

Mr Frolick commented that at the last meeting of the Committee, the issue of transformation in the Eastern Province had been raised, but nothing seemed to have been done. He asked for an update on the issue so that the Committee could avoid a ‘flare-up’ like that which had occurred in Gauteng.

Mr Majola responded that the UCB had discussed the matter with Eastern Province Cricket and they had changed their constitution to conform with regulations.

The Chairperson felt that there was no harmony between the national and provincial levels in cricket. Gauteng needed to conform.

Mr Mali said the UCB was ready to negotiate between Griquas and Free State. Legal personnel were currently handling the situation. The UCB was hoping to receive a letter from Griqualand West shortly and would proceed in the following 48 hours.

The Chairperson appealed to sports officials to handle contentious issues maturely so that they did not have to be resolved in court. Ms Kiki had raised a good point that if one visited provincial cricket branches, one found women working at various levels but none were CEOs. What about the issue of co-option?

The UCB should also address the question of ensuring that the boundaries of sport teams conformed to political boundaries. The Centres of Excellence were a positive development but the UCB should ensure these were available in poor, rural areas. Another issue to consider was the racial composition of ground staff and scorers.

The Chairperson concluded the first part of the meeting by saying that the Committee should discuss the issue of safety in stadiums. The legislation established for the Soccer World Cup should be applicable across all sports.

Griqualand West Cricket Board
Mr A Jinnah, Board President, then briefed the Committee on the concerns of his organisation. He did not want to labour the litigation issue. Partnerships between organisations in Griqualand and government and sponsors such as De Beers had grown.

Although the first litigation had been amicably resolved, Mr Jinnah said there was still mistrust between the parties. He felt that Griqualand had been misled between the establishment of the original franchise and the establishment of the greater franchise. The Board had informed the UCB that they would not enrol in the new franchise but that they would accept the UCB’s terms that there be a 50/50 shareholding between Griquas and the Free State, and a two-year alternating headquarters between Bloemfontein and Kimberley that shared international games. He had discussed the matter with leaders of the Free State Cricket Board who had stated they would give no more than 45%.

As far as present litigation was concerned, Mr Jinnah said that Griqualand West were willing to back down and ‘let the issue lie’, but they were circumspect about the UCB’s request for them to withdraw their legal application completely.

The Chairperson said that individual cricket boards could not simply do as they please. The position expressed in the Committee was binding, and should be taken as the informing position on progress in cricket.

Mr B Dhlamini (IFP) requested that the dispute be resolved with speed. The Chairperson concluded that the UCB and Griqualand West had the right to resolve their disagreements in court, but he did not want to see money wasted. He wished to see an end to all hostilities between these two groups.

The meeting was adjourned.

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