Sunday, October 2, 2022

CSA: Mark Rayner – Viewing cricket through the broadcast lens

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With an experienced understanding of the broadcast landscape, Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) Independent Director Mark Rayner is bringing a different element to the boardroom of the national body.

The 46-year-old chartered accountant, who spent 14 years at the MultiChoice Group, is amongst the new faces charged with improving the governance of the sport – and so far the impact has been significant.

Born and raised in Gqeberha, Rayner grew up in apartheid South Africa with a deep love for the game.

He recalls watching the rebel West Indians and Australians play their South African counterparts at St George’s Park as his earliest cricket memories.

“My sporting heroes were the West Indian fast bowlers,” he says. “Those guys were phenomenal. I had pictures of stars like Malcolm Marshall and Sylvester Clarke on my wall.

“One of the games I can clearly remember going to was that famous one against Australia, dubbed the ‘Humdinger’, which I think was in 1987.

“We got a huge score of 300 plus and the Aussies were on track to chase it down before Clive Rice claimed a hat-trick in the last over to win it for us. I remember standing for the entire day because there wasn’t an empty seat in the ground. That’s how packed it was.”

Rayner also remembers falling in love with Mini-Cricket as a youngster in primary school, before taking up the sport more seriously when he got to secondary school.

“I attended a strong cricket school in Grey High, but I was sadly a very average schoolboy cricketer,” he recalls. “I played at university level where we had some success for Rhodes, and I played a little bit for Border on the fringes of the squad where I took part in some warm-up games and was part of their Under-21 team as well. I also played premier league club cricket for a long time in the Border and Gauteng leagues.”

He was in the latter years of his schooling career when South Africa was welcomed back into the international fold following the abolishment of apartheid.

“In addition to playing rival schools, the Grey High teams also played in the Eastern Province men’s leagues in those days. It was quite an interesting time because we suddenly moved from playing against white teams to mixed teams when the various cricket boards came together,” he stated. “That was something that really stood out for me from my early years as a cricketer.”

Around the same time during the 1980s and 90s, Benson and Hedges cricket – the one-day version of the game – was the most popular. The first day/night games, big crowds, colourful kits and big hits meant that it also became an attractive commercial entity.

“It was the hottest show in town when it rocked up on a Friday night, everyone just loved it,” Rayner says.

How fitting then that a fan of the product during its early years progressed to become a major part of one the biggest broadcast networks in the world – a company that thrives on innovation and entertainment.

Rayner recently served as the CEO and Chief Operating Officer at MultiChoice South Africa after stretches as the CFO and CEO of DStv Mobile. Prior to that he held various finance positions within the Bidvest Group.

Now three decades on from South Africa’s re-introduction to the international fold, he believes greats strides have already been made by CSA.

“A lot of good has happened over the past 30 years,” he adds. “My view is that cricket vastly undersells what it’s done with development, its structures across the country and its whole transformation programme over the years”

“I really do think that the Mini-Cricket structures and the development programmes further up have been strong over the years, but obviously there’s more work to do. It's really a job that we should never rest on to make sure that every kid has a chance to play cricket whatever their background or circumstance.”

“The people that are now on board are really passionate about building on what’s already there, and there are some amazing people in Cricket South Africa’s structures who work tirelessly to give every kid a chance. I wish CSA could just tell their story a bit better to showcase some of the amazing work that the organisation has done.”

Rayner himself is also hoping to make a difference.

“I’m a chartered accountant by background and I’ve been involved in commercial business as a career,” he concluded. “So I wanted to try and help a little bit around the financial sustainability and strength of the business. CSA was in a very healthy situation a few years ago, and it’s had a few bad years for various reasons, so now it just needs some stability and sound foundations to build on going forward.

“A healthy financial plan and a healthy set of reserves make it more plausible to do great development work and to strengthen the game, so I wanted to add a bit of value to that. I’m the Chair of the FinCom and we work with the CEO and executive team on the commercial and financial matters.

“We have built a business plan that is realistic and achievable so that we can get Cricket SA back on a path that can ensure long-term sustainability. That’s my interest really and of course I’m passionate about the game as well so I want to try and make a difference.”

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