If you can’t beat ‘em, dodge em: South African cricket’s accountability problem

Jacques Faul had one hell of a Saturday. His breakfast had hardly been ingested before he was confirmed as interim chief executive of Cricket South Africa (CSA).
He hopped onto a flight to Jo’burg, and not long thereafter was caught in the middle of a media scrum.
He was expected to have answers, very decisive answers on how he plans to suspend South African cricket’s free-fall.

On more than one occasion during his engagement, Faul pointed out that he had only found out he got the gig at 11am that day. He had not exactly had the chance to put in a few all-night brainstorming sessions – although with the size of the mess he’s signed up for, there will be a good many of those in his future, no doubt.

Faull says South African cricket’s current dilemma will be solved by restoring trust. It sounds simple enough but remember he’s now talking about building trust in an organisation which has squandered the trust of all its stakeholders.

“I think you have to act in an ethical way,” he said on the sidelines of CSA’s press briefing in a conference room at the Intercontinental Hotel at OR Tambo International Airport. “You can’t blame the public for not trusting us for what’s happened. You have to act in an ethical way while putting out fires. Ultimately, we have to retain sponsors and attract new sponsors. That to me is a good indicator: it means corporate SA has actually agreed to giving you a chance.”

It’s not exactly rocket science but these simple acknowledgements offer at least a semblance of accountability. It’s an understanding of the simple truth that discreditable behaviour does not win over fans or sponsors.

“As the relationship becomes better with the South Africa Cricketers Association (Saca) and with sponsors, that’s when the credibility returns,” he said.

A few minutes earlier CSA president Chris Nenzani had acknowledged the deteriorating relationship between the game’s administrator and the official representative of players in Saca – with mumblings of potential industrial action, he could not possibly have continued to ignore players. He said, in crunch talks the previous night the board had mandated that the relationship with players be repaired as a matter of urgency. Again, something that should not require a mandate.

At the same time, however, Nenzani remained quick on his feet, careful to not hint that he or the board might actually be responsible for the wreckage we watched come to a head last week.

Saca, of course, had a few days earlier called for all of them to step down. So too, had eight provincial boards. Based on some of Nenzani’s answers, no idea could be as absurd.

“The board is not complicit in terms of decision making,” he said. “The board took decisions and those decisions had to be implemented by the CEO and his management.”

According to Nenzani it is the board’s duty to hold the chief executive accountable. By suspending Thabang Moroe last week, they have done just that. The president also made clear that he felt organising the press briefing and preceding meeting was proof that the board were taking responsibility for the current.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that this board is going nowhere. Could Faul and (presumably) Graeme Smith provide the necessary counterweight to the duplicity that has become the norm in the past few months?

READ MORE: Graeme Smith heeds call to help stabilise SA cricket

After Faul was done fielding that question in one form or another, he joked about the short-term nature of the assignment. It’s not the first time

“I actually like these interim jobs,” he said. “And then going back to safer and calmer waters for a while.”

Perhaps that’s for the best. At the very least we need someone that is not beholden to the stale CSA methods of accountability that have gotten us this far.

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