South Africa cricket in crisis over sponsors’ pullout

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - Johannesburg: Cricket in South Africa is facing an uncertain future after Africa’s biggest bank opted not to renew a sponsorship deal and the chief executive officer of the governing body was suspended over allegations of misconduct.

Standard Bank Group Ltd said on Friday it will end its financial support of the South African national men’s cricket team when its current deal expires in April, citing “a culmination of long-standing problems” that have damaged its reputation. Cricket South Africa sanctioned CEO Thabang Moroe hours later, saying an investigation will take place into unspecified wrongdoing.

The sponsorship decision will come as a major blow for CSA, which is already battling mounting losses, a dearth of financial backers and the resignation of independent directors. The organisation is also embroiled in a dispute with players over commercial rights and a plan to restructure the domestic system, and has been criticised over a recent move to temporarily withdraw the media accreditation of certain journalists.

Standard Bank’s sponsorship is worth about 400 million rand ($27 million), a leading website reported, without saying where it got the information. The off-field turmoil comes ahead of a high-profile tour by England, which begins with a five-day match in Pretoria starting December 26. The South African men’s team has had a tough year, losing a Test series at home to Sri Lanka for the first time and failing to qualify from the group stage at the World Cup.

The squad has struggled to overcome the retirement of key players such as AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, while the pool of future stars has been eroded by several departures to the UK. on more lucrative contracts that don’t allow for international caps. South African cricket also operates a racial quota system, which requires the six main franchise teams to pick a certain number of non-white players in every team.

That’s to increase participation in a sport that was dominated by the country’s white minority in the apartheid era. CSA is keen to replicate the success of the rugby team, which won the World Cup earlier this year with the most diverse team the country has fielded in the sport’s signature tournament.

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