Leading Edge: Would you sponsor SA cricket?

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

YOU’RE the boss of a high profile company with marketing money to burn. Would you sponsor cricket in SA?

If you hear the thumping of kids’ hearts when AB de Villiers signs their mini-bats up close and personal, or see Kagiso Rabada’s eyes stretch outrageously wide with the wonder of all that is happening to him, or spy a spot where your logo could go on the kit of players who feature on international television for the best of part of seven continuous hours for five consecutive days, the answer smacks you upside the head.

It would seem to have done just that for the 14 companies Cricket SA (CSA) list as their “team partners”, “title event sponsors”, “technical partners”, and “official suppliers”.

And why not. Cricket is probably the best run sport, at all levels, in SA. Its popularity is growing across races, cultures, genders and ages because it makes room for all shapes and sizes as players, officials, administrators and followers. In a country like ours that is no happy accident. Take a bow CSA.

But you could reach a different answer to the question above, especially if you haven’t given up on living ethically in a place where the embodiment of much that is wrong with our society smiles at us from election posters.

Indeed, cricket administrators are quietly relieved that the match-fixing saga has not hit the front page as hard as they feared it might.

Some have concluded that cricket has merely taken its place in the queue of corruption stories, and as long as that place is not at or near the front everything will be OK, more or less.

Perhaps someone needs to establish whether Gulam Bodi has a fire pool at home.

But, away from the public level, people deep within the gears of the game, who make it work day in and day out, who neither know nor want to know another profession, are starting to wonder if they are part of some grand lie that exists primarily to pump money into a corporatised corpse.

“Players want answers,” a former SA player still prominent in franchise cricket said this week. “You listen to them speak, and there’s still a lot that’s unanswered.

“OK, so we believe what Gulam said; that nothing happened. So let’s move on. If that is the case, happy days. But if that’s not the case then it’s dangerous to leave it like that.

“It’s a worrying thing. Names are attached – what about this guy, what about that guy. And no-one has come up and said whether anything happened with those guys.

“It’s all kind of died a death, which is great if that’s the end of it all. But is it?”

CSA have taken the fifth too many times to count since the scandal broke. Yes, we know – they cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.

Are they telling their sponsors more than they’re telling us? Who knows.

But that doesn’t change their responsibility as “custodians of the game”, as they like to call themselves, to prove to other important stakeholders that they are doing right by the game.

By investing in secrecy rather than straight talk, CSA are failing in that responsibility.

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