Cricket news - Momentum walks out as sponsor of South Africa's ODI team

Momentum has sponsored South Africa's white-ball cricket since June 2012.

Momentum has sponsored South Africa's white-ball cricket since June 2012.

South Africa's ongoing governance catastrophe has cost the game its biggest remaining sponsor. Momentum, a financial services firm that has been a prominent part of white-ball cricket in the country since June 2012, has walked away. That follows Standard Bank ending a 21-year relationship with cricket in December.

A release from Momentum on Tuesday said it would not seek to renew its backing of the national men's ODI team, the franchise one-day competition, the national club championships, schools' weeks at under-13, under-15 and under-17 level, and developmental projects when the current contract expires at the end of April next year. The package was worth, insiders say, in the region of the equivalent of USD 1.2-million a year. CSA, who could be USD 60.7-million in debt by 2022, can ill afford the loss of revenue.

Even though the company will still lend its name - and its money - to South Africa's women's team, the news comes is a crushing blow to a game that was already struggling to survive a slew of administrative crises.

The release made clear that's what had forced the firm's hand. "Momentum has expressed that they are not satisfied with the current state of affairs at CSA regarding governance and other reputational issues," the statement said, echoing the firm's call in December for the resignation of CSA's board or that of its president and vice-president. Chris Nenzani quit as president last month but his deputy, Beresford Williams, is now the acting president. And while five other board members have also resigned, six remain in office. It seems they will continue to be put under pressure.

"We will continue our dialogue with CSA to keep them accountable to do the right thing," the release quoted Carel Bosman, Momentum's head of sponsorship, as saying. "We all want to see a governing body that is run professionally and ethically, and one that considers all stakeholders to the game."

The news comes in the wake of CSA's board and key staff having been ordered on Thursday to step aside by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), which has the power to put federations under administration. SASCOC have denied they have done so in this case, but their move may yet attract the attention of the ICC because it could be construed as transgressing rules on interference.

SASCOC acted in part because of CSA's refusal to share with it the report of an apparently wide-ranging forensic investigation commissioned by the members council, CSA's highest authority. CSA cited the findings of the investigation as its reason for firing Thabang Moroe as chief executive on August 27. The report, which has not been released, is thought to implicate other figures in wrongdoing. The members council met with SASCOC on Monday, and the two organisations are scheduled to host a joint press conference on Thursday.

But that wasn't enough to keep Momentum on board for anything except the women's team, which they have sponsored since 2013 and will do until at least April 2023. The company's interest has helped CSA offer contracts to 14 women's players and afford their team a fulltime coaching and support staff.

"We have been extraordinarily proud of our role in supporting the advancement of the women's team and remain committed to that sponsorship agreement," Bosman was quoted as saying. "Our continued support... is in line with our brand narrative and we will continue to shine a light on their talent, build their commercial value and enable them on their journey to success."

Those words will sting South Africa's male players, who directly earned 20% of Momentum's sponsorship fee.