The owner of the Durban Qalandars franchise is weighting up legal options to challenge Cricket South Africa, accusing the board of abusing their franchise rights agreement.
The Qalandars were in line to own a team in the inaugural T20 Global League last year but CSA at first postponed and then scrapped the tournament altogether. Numerous logistical challenges and serious financial concerns, not least the lack of a broadcast deal and title sponsor, led to the board launching a replacement league that it co-owns with the broadcaster SuperSport.
None of the eight team owners from the GLT20 will be involved in CSA’s new competition, which is essentially a South African product, but the Qalandars are pressing for a stake since, contractually, they still hold the rights to a T20 franchise based out of Durban.
“We have had a successful experience with Lahore Qalandars in PSL and wanted to grow globally,” the Qalandars CEO Sameen Rana told ESPNcricinfo. “We couldn’t resist investing in South Africa, a country which has a big cricketing history and with the talent around I felt it was an excellent opportunity for us expand our venture. We were particularly keen to invest in cricket development in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province.
“We also set up our office, invested a lot on recruitment to bring people to run the cricket operations in South Africa. It all came after we were awarded the rights for Durban franchise with Kingsmead Cricket Ground as our home venue. But unfortunately after [former CSA CEO] Haroon [Lorgat] departed things started to fall apart and CSA stopped interacting with us. Reportedly there were a lot of discussions within CSA board without even taking us into confidence, despite us being a stakeholder for the entire project.”
CSA’s efforts are now on making sure the new T20 tournament goes off without a hitch and has begun giving back the deposits paid by the GLT20 team owners – USD 250,000 along with an interest of 3.5%.
And, in a letter from CSA to a GLT20 owner – seen by ESPNcricinfo – the board offered to pay an additional USD 180,000 to each franchise to reimburse them for the expenses incurred in planning for the tournament, a figure some owners are reportedly unhappy with.
The Qalandars aren’t satisfied with how everything has played out. “To our surprise we now read that CSA and SuperSport have signed a deal for yet another T20 venture and we were asked to take the refundable USD 250,000 back without any explanation,” Rana said. “This is a serious breach of trust and contract with us. We do not want our refundable money back, but we require CSA to fulfill the agreement they have signed with us. They also offered us 3.5% interest on the refund along with the reimbursement of expenses incurred. But this is again something we did not demand. We simply need CSA to respect the agreements around the awarding of the franchise to us, which they themselves have given to us in perpetuity. I do not agree to this refund as condition to give up my rights so we will be challenge CSA via legal [proceedings].”
All of these reimbursements will cost CSA a further R 19.6 million (USD 1.44 million) adding to their already depleted stocks. That will bring losses incurred by the board, which were reported at USD 14.1 million last year, to USD 15.6 million (R 212 million).
However, as much as it appears CSA have cut ties with the people who had initially invested in the concept a T20 league in South Africa, an insider told ESPNcricinfo otherwise. “CSA’s view is that we were in a partnership and would ideally like to retain the relationship in case there’s an opportunity in selling equity in teams.”