Sun, 07 Jun 2020

South Africa's professional cricket players have financial security in the midst of the global coronavirus crisis, at least for the short-term.

All around the world, players and administrators are being forced to take pay cuts with the pandemic having brought sport - domestic and international - to a screeching halt.

As it stands, there is no professional sport being played in South Africa and the likes of SA Rugby, Cricket South Africa (CSA), the South African Football Association (SAFA) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) look to navigate their way through these unique times.

In the case of cricket, however, things are not dire just yet and funds have been secured to pay the country's contracted players - at Proteas and provincial level - for the 2020/21 season.

Franchises have already started naming their squads for next season, and at present, there is security for those players.

According to Andrew Breetzke, the CEO of the South African Cricketers' Association (SACA), the relative stability of South African cricket during the coronavirus has a lot to do with timing as well as the fact that the country's system operates from one central position in CSA.

"We lost the last two weeks of the season, basically, so that was just before a natural break we were going to have anyway," Breetzke told Sport24 on Monday.

"That has been to our benefit as compared to the UK where county cricket was due to start and now, they're in a bit of trouble.

"The second things is that one of the things that has been a weakness in cricket, funnily enough, is probably a bit of a strength in a crisis like this in that we are very centralised."

In the UK, Breetzke added, the counties all operated independently, in much the same way that South Africa's Super Rugby franchises do, and this break from the game could be "devastating" for them.

CSA, though, is responsible for allocating funds to the franchises and provincial sides.

"Everything filters down from CSA," said Breetzke.

"Ironically, what we often see as a weakness in terms of the franchises' ability to generate their own income actually becomes a bit of a strength now with everything so centralised."

While CSA recently announced its group of contracted Proteas for the 2020/21 season, players were still being hurt financially by missing out on match fees. The ODI tour of India was suspended last month, while upcoming tours to Sri Lanka and the West Indies are also in doubt. While the Proteas might feel the pinch in that regards, those match fees are not lost to the system and Breetzke confirmed that they go back into the player fund to be distributed at a later stage.

The loss of the upcoming tours would also not be the end of the world financially, with CSA set to fund those trips.

It would be naive, Breetzke adds, to believe that South African cricket would not be impacted by the coronavirus down the line.

"The impact that it is undoubtedly going to have on sponsors and broadcasters is significant," he said.

"It's a reality and something we have to think about and plan for. It's a bit of wait and see at the moment. We are in constant communication daily with CSA on those matters."

While CSA was still fighting debt in the form of its forecast deficit every year, Breetzke added that player remuneration had been budgeted for until the end of 2020/21.

There is also the small matter of the IPL, where some of South Africa's top players secure the bulk of their annual earnings. A decision on that tournament is yet to be taken, but if it is cancelled, then the financial impact on the players will be significant.

"We are very supportive of a player's ability to maximise his earnings," Breetzke said.

"What we strive to achieve is a balance of allowing these players to play in these leagues yet being available to play for South Africa.

"Unfortunately, this is a world setback and it won't only be a setback for South African players."

While the overall outlook is positive in the short-term, compared to what is happening elsewhere in the sporting world, Breetzke cautioned that nothing was certain in these times.

"Given how things have changed so quickly in the last month, one cannot cast things in stone, and we have to be realistic about that," he said.

"We're confident that there will be no impact upon players' salaries, but how other player money gets distributed depending on what transpires, we're going to have to have an open mind as to what we do."

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