The South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) has responded with “surprise and disappointment” to Cricket South Africa’s statement regarding its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which expires at the end of April and has yet to be re-agreed to.
On Wednesday, CSA released a statement announcing its intention for an interim agreement and indicated the MoU may only be finalised by July, something SACA claims was not discussed with the players’ association. SACA also confirmed “negotiations on the key elements” of the MOU have yet to start despite CSA’s assertion that discussions had begun.
“We are both surprised and disappointed that CSA has seen fit to make a public statement announcing plans relating to the MoU without giving us any proper opportunity to respond to, or to deal with these first,” SACA CEO Tony Irish said. “The suggested plans have caused consternation among players and they require a response from SACA. The indication of further possible delays and the unworkability of certain aspects of what is being suggested are particular matters of concern to us. The suggestion also that there have actually been negotiations conducted by SACA officials with CSA on the MoU to date is also not correct. Negotiations on the key elements have yet to start.”
Among the most important aspects of the MoU is the financial model, which underpins players’ contracts and benefits, and which CSA initially indicated could change before backtracking. In December, CSA’s acting CEO Thabang Moroe and president Chris Nenzani told media that the revenue-share model which has formed part of the MoU since its inception 14 years ago may be relooked at. In March, Nenzani recommitted to the revenue share model though, which appeared to clear the path for agreement.
However, SACA suggests there has been little to no engagement with CSA despite the player body’s best efforts.
“SACA has been doing everything possible from its side for approximately three months to engage with CSA on the MoU and to deal with the key elements to enable player contracts to be finalised well in advance of 30th April 2018, being the date on which the majority of player contracts end. In past MoUs the key elements have always been agreed by the end of February at the latest to ensure a proper player contracting process can take place well in advance of expiry dates,” Irish said. “Unfortunately our attempts to date have been met with very little response from CSA and much of our correspondence has gone unanswered.
“We have now reached a point where many of our players could be out of contract in less than two weeks. The effect of this runs across the player group from senior players who play for the Proteas to young players seeking to make their way in franchise cricket.”
While CSA promised yesterday to extend player contracts until a final MoU is decided on, SACA explained that would only add to the current climate of uncertainty, because too many players face uncertain futures.
“This has caused confusion because it doesn’t cater for what is actually happening on the ground for many players,” Irish said. “Some players have already been told that they will no longer be contracted, some will be moving between national and franchise contracts, some will be moving between franchises and some will be first-time franchise players. Extensions of contract are simply unworkable for all of these players.”
SACA’s fear is that if the MoU is not signed by the time the current deal expires, South African players may consider their options elsewhere rather than commit to cricket at home, something which could destabilise the system at large. “The delays have created an environment of uncertainty for players, and also for franchises who wish to secure their players,” Irish said. “This comes at a time when South African cricket needs to do whatever it can to retain its players in the face of competing opportunities afforded to players in the emerging T20 leagues market and also in the UK.”
For that reason, SACA regards the finalisation of the MoU to be a “matter of urgency”, a term CSA also used in its release. SACA’s worry is that CSA’s timeline on an urgent matter may not correspond to its own and Irish has urged CSA to enter into talks at the soonest.
“We do not understand why such a long further delay may be necessary,” Irish said. “We believe that the new MoU is likely to be substantially similar to the existing one in most respects. Whilst SACA does not have an issue with clarifying the relationship between it and CSA we urge CSA to prioritise finalising the key elements of the MoU so that there is a greater degree of certainty and security for players going forward. Our players deserve that.”