By Robson Sharuko
Zimbabwe Cricket has said it will review its structure and financial strategy, with the emphasis to reduce expenses, and this will see some strong and painful measures being implemented because that is the only way the game can be kept alive in the country.
The country’s second biggest sporting discipline, and the one whose stars regularly play with the best in the world, has been battling to contain some financial challenges and recently received a lifeline from the International Cricket Council.
The injection of the funds from the ICC saw ZC managing to pay off its staff and players some of their outstanding dues and resolve an impasse which had seen some key players, including Brendan Taylor, Graeme Cremer and Craig Ervine, not featuring for the Chevrons.
The three players are now back in the fold as the Chevrons prepare for the tour of South Africa and Bangladesh.
The ICC bailout, which was structured at a meeting in Dublin, Ireland, at the end of June, comes with some stringent conditions for the way the funds have to be utilised.
And ZC have announced they will be forced the tighten their belt even more to meet the conditions set by the ICC.
“Zimbabwe Cricket is reviewing its cricket structure and financial strategy due to the need to radically reduce expenses across the board to ensure the sustainability of this great game,” the organisation said in a statement.
“Strong measures are required to make this a reality. With the above in mind, ZC will not be renewing almost all staff contracts which conclude on 31 August 2018.
“It needs to be noted that the national men and women player contracts are being reviewed and will be agreed next week.
“The domestic season will start in November and the staff complement required will by that time have been defined and agreed to suit the ZC cricket strategic direction.
“These are tough times and tough decisions are required to preserve cricket in Zimbabwe.”
In June, Zimbabwe survived the threat of suspension from the International Cricket Council, in a massive boardroom victory for the country’s second biggest sporting franchise, with the game’s world leadership instead choosing to throw their full weight behind the revival of the domestic sport.
The country was facing the grim possibility of being put on notice for suspension from the ICC in Dublin, Ireland, at the weekend – a move which would have turned off the taps that have been providing the game with its critical financial support – paralysing the sport here and plunging it into darkness.
In the event of suspension, the $94 million from the ICC, which Zimbabwe expects over the next eight years, would have been whittled down to just about $8 million, over the same number of years, because the country would have lost its place among the Full Members.
But the threat of suspension was averted after a ZC delegation, led by chairman Tavengwa Mukhuhani and consultant Vince van der Bijl, successfully fought the cocktail of sanctions and even received fresh commitment from the ICC leaders for a helping hand in the revival of the game in this country.
The ICC said they would send a delegation to help ZC find a way out of the challenges that have been haunting them for some time now and the resolutions from the indaba in Dublin also, crucially, provide the domestic game with the big financial injection which it has been crying for to pay off what is owed to their players and staff by the end of this month.
The ICC wanted local cricket leaders to provide them with a guarantee that the multi-million-dollar debt, which stands at around $19 million, owed to local banks will get a 30 percent discount on the principal amount with the world governing body also providing a similar haircut on the $6 million which ZC owe them.
The interest rate on the debt, which has been housed under ZAMCO, would then be frozen at 6.5 percent until 2023, and the ICC will then make a one-off payment to ZAMCO by 2023, for the dissolution of the ZC loan on their shelves with this leaving ZC without debt and with breathing space for their operations.
The ICC believe this is the best possible debt resolution strategy – over an eight-year period – which will not only ultimately end with Zimbabwe cricket being freed from its bondage of debt but will also ensure that the funds which are pumped into the domestic game will end servicing the sport rather than servicing the debts.
The ICC believed that any other option would have been inadequate to deal with the debt baggage and this would have forced them to suspend Zimbabwe from their family of nations.
Van der Bijl, the South African cricket legend who was roped into the ZC structures as a consultant, played a very key role – behind the scenes – using his vast network of contacts among the top ICC leaders to get their support to avert the crisis that could have been sparked by the country’s suspension and the switching off of the financial aid.