ZIMBABWE’S cricketers are facing a lean Christmas. Not only will they need to get through the festive period with only a portion of the money owed to them, but the domestic players now face almost two months without any cricket after Zimbabwe Cricket ordered a countrywide shutdown to allow preparations for the World Cup qualifiers next year.
For the second month in a row, ZC’s employees have received only half of their monthly salary on time as the organisation continues to battle cash flow issues. While ZC was able to settle the balance of October salaries fairly swiftly when the problem arose at the end of that month, a longer delay is expected this time around.
In a letter sent to all ZC employees on Wednesday (December 6), which Cricbuzz has seen, ZC’s head of human resources Nesta Vaki wrote that “as things stand, ZC is still in a financial predicament and will only receive its next revenue distribution in January 2018.
Accordingly, it is highly likely that staff will receive their December 2017 salaries and the balance of the November 2017 salaries in mid January 2018.”Advertisement
Contacted for comment, ZC managing director Faisal Hasnain confirmed ZC’s financial difficulties are ongoing. “That is a fact of life. We are working through it with all concerned and trying to manage the situation as best we can.
“It’s about the worst time for us to be in this situation given that it is a time for family. Hopefully by the middle of January, once the ICC distributions come through the situation will stabilise.”
ZC have made positive strides under Hasnain, who was brought in by chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani in April, and deserve some sympathy given the dire financial situation that they have inherited. ZC currently owes various institutions $19m, much of it in high-interest loans, which means that more than $3m a year is diverted towards interest payments.
But that sympathy is thin on the ground in Zimbabwe, where players have also endured delays in match allowances. For domestic players who are on the lower salaries, sourcing kit and even getting to training has become difficult when they have not received the money owed to them.
“The problem is that for the guys on ‘good wickets’, if they get 50% (of their salary) they can still crack on as usual. But for the other coaches and players, that 50% is not enough to cover bills and get them to work every day,” a ZC employee told Cricbuzz.
Hasnain added that ZC is hopeful salaries will not be delayed in the months after the ICC money comes through, and plans to put in place a new cash flow system in which the salary pot can not be touched. He also denied that cash flow issues were behind ZC’s decision to postpone two Logan Cup matches and a host of Pro50 games this month.
“We had set money aside to play these matches, which to be honest don’t cost a lot. But the ICC delegation is supposed to be arriving on Monday to inspect the grounds and infrastructure, as well as operational planning and safety and security,” he said.
“We are also going to be reviewing the equipment needed to restore the grounds to the level that the ICC is comfortable with. In view of all of that, as well as the fact that our renovator said he needs time to start planning and working, we had to postpone the domestic matches. From 11 December we are shutting down all our grounds purely to work on them with the ICC.”
Hasnain also pointed out that while many host countries have two or three years to plan for a major tournament, Zimbabwe had effectively been left with five months to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers, which have been slated to take place between 2 and 25 March.
The tournament was originally scheduled to take place in Bangladesh in June, but the commitments of various participants left March as the only window when all nations could play at full strength. After Bangladesh qualified automatically for the 2019 World Cup an alternative host was sought, but Zimbabwe was only awarded the hosting rights in October.
ZC will receive $1 million for holding the competition, all of which will be spent on upgrading infrastructure, sourcing new equipment and improving the state of pitches and outfields. ZC hope to accomplish most of the work by the time of the domestic season’s scheduled resumption on January 26. To accomplish that, some ZC employees will need to work through the Christmas period, regardless of delays in their salary payments.
While the World Cup qualifiers are a priority at the moment, ZC continue to work on securing finance that would alleviate their interest burden. However recent events in Zimbabwe, where a military coup brought about the end of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule, have hindered ZC’s efforts.
“We have been working with the Zimbabwe government and the ICC to restructure our finances for the future,” said Hasnain.
“As you know, the government of Zimbabwe has changed and the transaction that we were working on with the government has had to take a back seat.
“There is a new sports minister and a new finance minister and both industries are involved in what we are doing. But obviously (the change in government) has slowed things down. We are where we are and it’s not a secret.”