CSA T20 league a case of putting cart before the horse

CSA T20 league a case of putting cart before the horse

Cricket South Africa’s ambitious project Global T20 is dead and buried even before it could see the light of the day. But many closets are still to be cleaned as the governing body for cricket in South Africa has launched a new initiative – a new financial model – for a T20 league. The name for the new league is not yet finalised. Still, Cricket South Africa has trodden a long path for its second ambitious project.

There are backlogs from the previous failure. In addition to the financial blow of over 200 million SA Rand ($13 million), the board also faces the threat of litigation from the franchisees, who have bought teams in the failed league. Their accounts are not settled yet. There will be no consideration for them in the new league as the new format of State-owned teams has no provision for franchisees.

CSA is going with the new project without clearing the potential hurdles from its earlier disaster, with no name for the new league looks like a desperate case of putting the cart before the horse.

It had all started in 2017 when Cricket South Africa embarked on an ambitious journey to launch its very own professional T20 cricket league on the lines other few successful global models like the Indian Premier League.

An idea of Global T20 League was mooted under the leadership of former CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat. Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta, India-based GMR group (owners of IPL franchisee Delhi Daredevils) and a couple of wealthy business magnates from Dubai and Pakistan bought the franchise rights as perpetual owners.

Lack of solid game plan, weak financial backing from sponsors, and no interest from broadcasters saw the league collapse two months before the scheduled inaugural season. That resulted in Lorgat relinquishing his position as CSA CEO. Until his departure from the board, he had reportedly made several failed attempts to convince Indian broadcasters to air the league in the country.

All went in vain, and CSA suffered losses of over $13 million following the failure of the inaugural GLT20. A compensation formula was struck with the drafted players to avoid any legal conflicts and the league was “postponed to November 2018”  with the CSA stating that until then it will re-assess the strategy and formulate a concrete model for the league’s future.

A year later, the CSA has already closed the player registration process, announced last month, ahead of the player draft scheduled for October 17. The CSA Members Council, at a special meeting in Johannesburg last month, gave a green signal for the T20 league to take take-off, albeit with a new name that is yet to be finalised.

Also Read: CSA T20 League initiates player registration process

The board has also named six venues – Bidvest Wanderers Stadium, SuperSport Park, Kingsmead, St. George’s Park, PPC Newlands and Eurolux Boland Park – following the independent assessment process carried out by Nielsen Sport.

While the CSA exudes confidence and optimism over the surface, the murkier waters beneath bring out a different story altogether. A major revamp in the franchisee ownership, format and business model of the CSA T20 League has added to the woes for the South African cricket board.

The Global T20 League franchisee owners are irked over the new model, which may see a change in the ownership of the teams, and have threatened legal action against CSA. The board has drawn flak from the franchisees who still hold contracts for the teams of CSA’s professional T20 league.

The new structure of the league resembles the Australian Big Bash League model where there is no private ownership and the national board conducts the tournament with Provincial / State units as the franchisees. As the current team owners are fearing their ouster, the number of teams, to be owned by the CSA State units, have been reduced from eight to six leaving no role to play for them in the revised format.

Also Read: CSA Global T20 League in limbo, franchisee owners threaten legal action

In August, CSA has conducted a couple of meetings in Dubai and Mumbai to woo the franchisee owners and calm their ire after they threatened to take a legal route. The meetings were attended by the owners and representatives of Nelson Mandela Bay Stars, Durban Qalandars, Joburg Giants, Stellenbosch Kings and Pretoria Mavericks.

Although CSA had invited interest from the franchisee owners of the defunct Global T20 League earlier this year, lack of trust in its leadership and lack of clarity in plans has made it difficult to find a favour from among them.

Also in August, South African network Supersport pulled out of its joint equity partnership with CSA to form a new venture that was to look after the organising, commercial and media rights business of the league. The broadcaster, while confirming that it would no longer pursue the T20 equity deal, had stated that it was in talks with CSA over broadcasting rights.

Also Read: SABC inks media rights deal for Cricket South Africa’s new T20 league

Meanwhile, the lack of priorities set by CSA to bring the league out to see the light of the day keeps it on the shaky grounds. The board, which has slated for the league to run from November 9 to December 16, is still left with a lot of uncompleted tasks, including settling disputes with the current stakeholders and the branding of the league. Also, the league is yet to announce commercial partnerships before it kicks off, including a title sponsor.

A month appears too short a span to ready the horse to pull the cart through this time around.