Cricket World Pays Tribute to Percy Sonn
Presidential predecessor Ehsan Mani: “As a cricket administrator and a man, Percy Sonn was a giant”
CSA President Ray Mali: Percy’s legacy in South Africa is “a strong sport with role models from all sections of society”
ICC CEO Malcolm Speed: “Percy’s mantra was that the game should be inclusive not exclusive; he relished modern cricket’s diversity”
Australia captain Ricky Ponting: “I will always associate Percy with one of the happiest moments of my career”
Leading figures throughout the world of cricket today joined together in paying tribute to ICC President Percy Sonn, who has died at the age of 57.
Mr Sonn’s predecessor as ICC President, Mr Ehsan Mani said: “As a cricket administrator and a man, Percy Sonn was a giant.
“In all the circles in which he moved, he commanded a huge amount of respect and that was never more obvious than when he was in an ICC Board meeting.
“Percy never spoke for the sake of it but when he did speak people listened. He was one of the most intelligent men I have ever met and cricket will be much the poorer for his passing.
“It is a tragedy that he was only able to fill the role of ICC President for one year. I have lost a great personal friend and my thoughts are with his wife Sandra, his brothers and sisters and his three children.”
Cricket South Africa (CSA) President Ray Mali said: “This is a terrible shock and a devastating piece of news as I have lost a close personal friend.
“I know Percy was so proud to represent South Africa and the whole continent of Africa as the ICC’s first President from this part of the world and he filled the role with great dignity and strength.
“Percy was a great administrator who played a key role in the integration process the game underwent in South Africa either side of the end of Apartheid and his legacy in his homeland is of a strong sport with role models from all sections of society.
“Percy never saw problems, just challenges, and usually he rose to those challenges, never more so than when he helped resolve the problems that existed within the administration of Kenyan cricket in the early years of this decade.
“Our prayers are with Sandra and his family at this desperate time.”
ICC Chief Executive Officer Malcolm Speed said: “Percy was never afraid to speak his mind but his great skill, especially in meetings where discord was possible, was to do so in such a way that he got everyone together and pulling in the same direction.
“Percy was utterly committed to the game at all levels and his mantras were that the game had to be inclusive rather than exclusive and that it had to be played the right way, to be true to the Spirit of Cricket.
“He relished the fact that this year’s ICC Cricket World Cup took place in the Caribbean because the nine countries that hosted the tournament mirrored the game’s diversity on a worldwide level, something he saw as a real strength.
“He was immensely popular among the ICC’s staff, a friend to me and he could brighten the darkest day because, invariably, he had a smile on his face.
“He will be sorely missed and his wife Sandra and family are in all our prayers.”
Captain of the ICC Cricket World Cup-winning Australia team Ricky Ponting, speaking from Sydney, said: “I am shocked and saddened to hear this news and first and foremost my thoughts are with Percy’s family and friends.
“I will always associate Percy with one of the happiest moments of my career as he was the man who handed over the Cricket World Cup trophy to the Australia team at the end of the tournament in Barbados last month.
“He and his wife then flew with us back from Barbados to London where we went our separate ways and to think he is no longer with us less than a month later is a huge shock.
“I have been told of his lifetime of service to the game in what, for many years, must have been difficult circumstances in South Africa. Cricket obviously owes him a huge debt of thanks.”
Mr Sonn’s philosophy – the desire for inclusiveness, his passion for the game and to see it played hard but fair – was reflected in his speech to open the ICC Cricket World Cup, in Trelawny, Jamaica on 11 March.
“The 16 teams participating (here) reflect a wide diversity,” he said.
“They have been drawn from all five of our regions – Africa, the Americas, Asia, East Asia Pacific and Europe – and represent a profile of cricket worldwide.
“The tie that binds (us) all is what we in the ICC call the Spirit of Cricket, where all play hard and play to win, but also seek to play the right way, respecting your team mates, the officials, the supporters, and your opponents. In short (it is about) honouring the ethos of the game under all circumstances.
“That way cricket can be a celebration of all that makes this game great – its excitement, its diversity, its sportsmanship and its spirit.”
Mr Sonn was aware throughout the ICC Cricket World Cup that he would have to undergo surgery.
The surgery went ahead with Mr Sonn facing the prospect of further treatment afterwards but following that surgery his condition deteriorated rapidly and he passed away on Sunday.
Born on 25 September 1949, Percival Henry Frederick Sonn, universally known as Percy, dedicated much of his life to cricket.
His career in the game’s administration began while he was still a teenager in South Africa, in the midst of the Apartheid regime.
He helped with the organization of his club side, Bellville South, and it marked the start of a lifetime’s work for the betterment of the game at local, national and international level.
Mr Sonn emerged as a leading administrator when he served as Vice-President to Hassan Howa at the Western Province Cricket Board, for nine years from 1974, taking over the role of President of the Board from 1990 to 1992. He then became President of the newly-formed Western Province Cricket Association in 1993.
Mr Sonn served as a Vice President of the South African Cricket Board before the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) was formed, played a crucial role in the unity process in 1991, and served as a Management Committee Member of the UCBSA (now CSA) from its inauguration until 2003.
He also served as President of the UCBSA for three years until 2003.
Percy Sonn became the sixth person to fill the senior role at the ICC and followed on from Lord (Colin) Cowdrey of Tonbridge (1989 – 93)*, Sir Clyde Walcott (1993 – 97)*, Jagmohan Dalmiya (1997 – 2000), Malcolm Gray (2000 – 2003) and Ehsan Mani (2003 – 2006).
His appointment as ICC President followed two years as the organisation’s Vice-President, a post to which he was appointed on 1 July 2004.
Away from cricket, Mr Sonn experienced a hugely varied life and a fascinating professional career.
He was a Senior Counsel and his input was invaluable in all legal matters affecting the UCBSA. That background helped make him a respected member of the ICC and he represented the UCBSA at the ICC during the match-fixing controversies in 2000.
Mr Sonn was educated at Belgravia Senior Secondary school and the University of the Western Cape and obtained his Law degree in 1972.
He worked as an Attorney and an Advocate, served as Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions and a legal advisor to the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Mr Sonn also formed and then headed the Directorate of Special Operations in South Africa, the organization known as the Scorpions, which went after the perpetrators of serious economic offences, organized crime and drug trafficking.
Latterly he was the Chief Executive Officer of a forensic investigation company.
Mr Sonn’s playing career as an off-spinner and lower-order batsman spanned over 15 years, starting in 1964 at Belgravia High School in Athlone, Cape Town. He represented the Maitland and Parow Cricket Union as player and administrator until he went into legal partnership with Dullah Omar.
Mr Sonn leaves his wife Sandra and three children – a daughter and two sons – as well as his mother, six brothers (two of them older than him and four younger) and a sister.
Details of Mr Sonn’s funeral will also be made public as appropriate.
The process for choosing a new President of the ICC is that under the organisation’s Articles the ICC Board will appoint an Acting President until an election can be held.
The ICC Board, which meets three times a year, is made up of the following Directors, in addition to the President and Chief Executive Officer Malcolm Speed:
Creagh O’Connor – Australia
Abdul Aziz – Bangladesh
David Morgan – England
Sharad Pawar – India
Sir John Anderson – New Zealand
Dr Nasim Ashraf – Pakistan
Jayantha Dharmadasa – Sri Lanka
Ray Mali – South Africa
Ken Gordon – West Indies
Peter Chingoka – Zimbabwe
Samir Inamdar – Kenya
Stanley Perlman – Israel
HRH Tunku Imran – Malaysia
Details of the form any election may take will be announced in due course.