TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IF it’s broke, fix it. But don’t make it bigger. That, in essence, is why Cricket South Africa (CSA) have decided against establishing a seventh domestic franchise.
The plan could be back on the committee table in future, but it could also be rendered irrelevant if CSA’s new T20 competition, which was launched on Friday with a call for bids from prospective team owners, comes to fruition and delivers on its promise.
A seventh franchise, sources say, was mooted by management – the professional structures responsible for running the game and keeping it in sound financial health – and turned down by the cricket committee, an important part of the custodianship that is CSA’s overriding responsibility.
Both sets of suits would agree that domestic cricket in South Africa faces significant challenges and is not as strong as they want it to be. Where they would seem to differ is on how to ease those problems.
A seventh franchise would put more players in the shop window for higher honours, offer greater opportunities for those from disadvantaged backgrounds to stake their claim, and potentially dissuade still others from taking up Kolpak contracts.
But it would also take away from the shallow pool of resources available to the franchises and the provincial unions, who are heavily dependent on CSA for funding and are struggling – many would say failing – to keep the gap between the international and domestic levels from widening to an unacceptable degree.
The new T20 league would, in theory, do all of the above – except that it would pump money into the coffers, not drain them.
“The evidence shown to us did not support a valid reason for expanding the system,” Northern Cape Cricket (NCC) president Rihan Richards, who is also a CSA board member and sits on the cricket committee, said.
“We first have to correct the weaknesses in the system and address the shortcomings to ensure that it is not a threat to our ability to play strength-versus-strength cricket and to produce players for a higher level.”
Richards said more attention should be spent on hiking the quality of the level below franchise cricket: the provinces that currently exist in an almost forgotten part of the game’s landscape in South Africa.
“It’s a first-class competition and you need to get that up to standard,” he said.
Another CSA board and cricket committee member, Western Province Cricket Association president Beresford Williams, said adding to the number of franchises remained an option.
“We will further consider the matter at the cricket committee meeting that coming up in the next few weeks,” Williams said.
“We need to consider playing opportunities and other factors, but at this stage we’re carrying on for another season and we’ve got many other factors to consider including the new T20 competition.”
Richards and Williams denied theories that the cricket committee had indeed recommended the establishment of a seventh franchise, that it should be awarded to Border, and that NCC and Free State had successfully argued against the move – largely out of spite that their own claims to a new franchise had not found enough favour.
Instead of creating another franchise, CSA have pushed a boat they are calling “#T20 Global League” onto the water.
In a statement, CSA president Chris Nenzani said the new league would “energise the sport” by “creating a global platform for the best-in-class to perform and showcase their talent to a global audience”.
Chief executive Haroon Lorgat spoke of “tremendous interest … from around the globe” in the venture.