With less than a fortnight to start, Cricket South Africa’s Mzansi Super League is faced with two critical scenarios which may be detrimental to the health of the league, launched with the completely restructured model after CSA’s earlier franchisee-based league last year had collapsed weeks before its launch last year.
Now, as CSA’s much ambitious project is all set to see the light of the day in its new avatar – Mzansi Super League – two developments in Cricket South Africa have emerged as a damp squib.
Shortly after SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe has confessed that the MSL host broadcaster is “technically insolvent”, there is the news Cricket South Africa is struggling financially. The two critical factors though do not pose an immediate threat for the long-awaited league to start. The MSL teams and the team ownership structure is in place. “Technically insolvent” SABC is not in charge for the broadcast technical. MSL’s commercial partners Global Sports Commerce will produce the league and SABC will get the feed for live broadcast.
However, the timing of the two developments does not augur well for the league in the longer run. The ambitious CSA project, which last year had fallen even before taking off for failing to get an Indian broadcaster, this year too is yet to ink a media rights deal in India.
It was the failure to get an Indian broadcaster that has eventually led to the collapse of CSA T20 Global League and unceremonious exit of CEO Haroon Lorgat.
The problem lies at the heart of recession in South Africa. The two key bodies, crucial to the survival of the MSL, are bleeding financially. “We are technically insolvent as the SABC. We are not able to fulfil our monthly obligations. It’s important to understand as an organisation‚ we are not able to fulfill our financial obligations,” Mxakwe had told SA media last week, adding that the SABC was currently in the process of engaging with different stakeholders and trying to extend their borrowing limit.
“I do need to put it on record that the commercial insolvency is indeed increasing significantly‚” he said.
Cricket South Africa is in no better financial state either. Reports, emerging following CSA’s delayed interaction with the Parliamentary portfolio committee for Sport and Recreation, have highlighted that the governing body for cr is struggling financially and development remains a significant challenge for it.
South Africa is in the midst of a recession that has seen many companies engage in severe cutbacks and retrenchments. CSA is predicting losses of Rand 654-million ($ 45.6 million / ₹ 3,333 crore) for the four-year cycle ending in April 2022.
CSA has explained “difficult sponsorship and local broadcast market” as the primary reason for its inability to generate additional revenue. It gets its main revenues from England, India and Australia tours. The other upcoming international series against weaker sides give little hope to the board, while except for a full home series against England next summer, CSA hosts Australia for a short ODI series while India will visit the Protea land only after 2021-22.
Incidentally, the sponsorship and local market will be hit further by the CSA decision to slash its marketing budgets under fund constraints. Sunfoil and Momentum will reportedly not be renewing with CSA.
Amidst such fears MSL – already budgeted to lose Rand 40-million ($2.78 million) on top of the nearly R200-million ($14 million) lost last year when the T20 Global League was postponed – is also without required sponsors and there are concerns about the next broadcast deal as well.
There are fears that the tight economic conditions’ knock-on effect could directly impact the future of the cricket and the league in South Africa. CSA had launched the MSL to “generate new revenues”. However at this stage the governing body for cricket in South Africa is spending more on the MSL than it is earning and the weak chances of securing a sponsor make that a difficult prospect.
For now the CSA must be hoping the national economy to improve. While for MSA to be a key funding source for the CSA, it will be important that CSA stays in a healthy condition during the league’s incubation period.