SACA withdraws legal action against CSA ahead of planned domestic structure review

The South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) has withdrawn its ongoing court case against CSA, which related to a proposed restructure of the domestic game. The parties have agreed to a joint consultation and review process, to be completed by the end of June 2020, following the Members’ Council decision to rescind the plan to eliminate the six franchises that formed the premier tier of domestic cricket and revert to a 12-team provincial set-up, as was the case pre-2004-05.

As reported by ESPNcricinfo last month, the Members’ Council, a body made up of 14 provincial presidents who form CSA’s affiliates, backtracked on their plan, which SACA claimed would cause up to 70 cricketers to lose their jobs. The Members’ Council initially proposed a more streamlined set-up as a way to cut costs, with CSA projecting substantial losses – their own estimates were R654 million (US$43.3m) but SACA put the amount closer to R1 billion (US$66.2m) – in the next four-year cycle.

Currently, CSA financially props up a two-tier domestic system, which includes six franchises playing four-day first-class cricket and 14 semi-professional teams, who play three-day first-class cricket. All 20 teams receive CSA grants. The Members’ Council believed that culling the franchises would save CSA money. However, SACA argued it would lead to job losses and a decrease in the quality of domestic cricket.

The players’ body also claimed it was not consulted about the plan to alter the domestic landscape and, in May last year, launched a case in the Johannesburg High Court asking CSA to show-cause for the restructure. CSA only filed answering papers seven months later, in November. In between, the relationship between the two organisations hit an all-time low, as CSA delayed payments of commercial rights fees and excluded SACA officials from high-level meetings.

In December 2019, CSA underwent a major overhaul, which included the suspension of CEO Thabang Moroe. Jacques Faul was appointed acting CEO and one of his most pressing tasks was to repair the relationship with SACA, which hinged significantly on the domestic restructure. Weeks of meetings resulted in CSA and SACA agreeing to work together and the bodies released a joint statement on Friday afternoon confirming their new-found consensus.

SACA’s president, Omphile Ramela, called it a “good day for cricket in South Africa”, while Faul said he hoped it would stop the talent drain. “This confirms that we have got our partnership relationship with SACA back on track and it will give everybody, especially our players, certainty and security on the road ahead,” Faul said. “It is an important part of the process to encourage them [the players] to stay in our system rather than seek opportunities abroad.”

Exactly what this means for the 2020-21 season is yet to be revealed. With player contracts due to expire in April it will need swift work if a change in the structure is to succeed. ESPNcricinfo understands that one of the options being considered is an eight-team franchise structure, with provincial teams returning to amateur status.

The future of the Mzansi Super League (MSL) will also be a key consideration with CSA running the tournament at a loss of more than R100 million (US$6.6m) in each of its two editions so far, following a failure to sell television rights. CSA has been holding talks with pay-television producers SuperSport in recent weeks, and although their broadcast deal will only be renegotiated next year, the MSL is understood to be an important point of discussion between the parties.

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