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SA coach heaves a sigh of relief

Johannesburg: South African cricket coach Eric Simons expressed relief Wednesday that a row over contracts had been sorted out ahead of his team’s departure for the ICC Champions Trophy Sunday.

The South African team agreed Tuesday to sign contracts demanded by the International Cricket Council (ICC), leaving India as the only one of the 12 participating nations whose players have yet to agree terms. The tournament starts in Colombo September 13.

“I am glad it is sorted out,” said Simons. “Although it did not affect our preparation for the tournament. The players simply wanted to get it out of the way.”

The South African players, who had already missed a deadline last Friday for signing of the contracts, declared a deadlock Monday when they rejected terms offered by the United Cricket Board (UCB).

But agreement was reached when UCB chief executive Gerald Majola and South Africa Cricketers’ Association (SACA) chief executive Tony Irish met in Cape Town Tuesday.

The players had been unhappy about clauses in the ICC contract banning them from endorsing products other than the official ICC sponsors during the tournament and for 30 days before and after the event.

Majola and Irish said the deal struck was only for the Champions Trophy. There will be further negotiations after the tournament between the players and the UCB on issues affecting future deals.

Irish said the players wanted to resolve all issues well in advance of the World Cup in South Africa in February and March next year. The two parties did not specify whether the deal struck provides for more money for the players.

“This was about getting the UCB out of a hole after they delivered the players rights to the ICC,” said Irish, referring to an agreement by ICC member countries in 2000 on measures to protect the rights of major sponsors and to prevent “ambush” marketing.

“This particular case was not about money, although the issue of compensation for the ceding of rights by players has to be addressed.”

Players of other countries, though, have gained financially from the wrangle over contracts. The West Indies board agreed to pay its players 25 per cent of revenue from the Champions Trophy and the Sri Lankan players settled on an undisclosed amount after demanding 30 per cent of the host country’s takings.

Irish has said previously the SACA, which was formed in June, sees the relationship between the Australian board and players as a “good model”.

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