Franchises have faith in delayed T20GL though CSA faced losing $8m per year
By Simon Ward
The owners of teams in South African cricket’s T20 Global League have reiterated their commitment to the competition even though the first edition has been postponed until 2018.
The short-format franchise-based tournament was scheduled to get under way next month, but Cricket South Africa yesterday delayed the start until November 2018, citing the potential for losses of up to $8 million per year after money-spinning broadcasting and sponsorship deals were not forthcoming.
The decision has raised doubts over whether the competition will ever get off the ground although several teams have stressed their support, and believe the postponement will be beneficial.
Asked if he was convinced the T20GL would go ahead next year, Osman Osman, one of the owners of the Pretoria Mavericks franchise, told Sportcal: “Yes, 100 per cent. If anything the league and the teams can only come out stronger from this. We now have the mechanisms/structures and time to build this league into a global phenomenon.”
The T20GL was launched, with its grandiose name and in glitzy fashion, in London in June (pictured), when the eight team owners were named, including some with franchises in the high-profile Indian Premier League.
However, although the players had been allocated to teams and fixtures announced, with under a month until the proposed start on 3 November, CSA still did not have a domestic television deal nor a title sponsor in place, and the situation is thought to have been a key factor in the recent departure of chief executive Haroon Lorgat.
After earlier difficulties, negotiations had resumed with SuperSport, the South African pay-TV broadcaster, although, given the short timeframe, a deal was unlikely to be as lucrative as CSA hoped.
Thabang Moroe, the acting chief executive of the governing body, justified the postponement on Tuesday, telling reporters: “If you have a look at where we are in terms of the budgets we had allocated in running the league, if you look at the numbers put in front of us for sponsorship and broadcast deals, we were going to make losses of between $6-$8 million every year for the next five years. It’s a no-brainer if you look at the numbers.”
Last week, Moroe admitted to reporters that CSA was anticipating a loss of $25 million on the first edition of the T20GL, equivalent to half of the governing body’s cash reserves, while insisting, at the time, that it would go ahead this year.
Osman said that while the stakeholders were not expecting an immediate return on their investments, the delay was “in the best interest of the league,” adding: “Everyone needed to re-access the strategy and make sure that all the elements are in place. The TV deal in a league of this magnitude is important. I think due to many factors it made sense to postpone the tournament to ensure the success of the league. With any new business there’s definitely an investment made to get things off the ground.”
He also claimed that the postponement would help the franchises in attracting sponsors of their own, saying: “There was definitely a lot of support and confidence in our team, the Pretoria Mavericks. From a commercial element sponsors will be more excited as it gives them more time to build momentum and support for their brands.”
This view on the delay is shared by Sushil Kumar, the Hong Kong-based businessman who owns the Bloem City Blazers team.
In a statement today, he said: “On one hand, there is a sense of disappointment. We, along with our fans, were looking forward to the tournament and our preparations were going ahead at full steam and taking promising shape.
“On the other hand, there is also a sense of relief. We will now have time to have clarity on the broadcast and sponsorship rights (for both the league and the teams), which have been unconfirmed.
“With less than a month to go before the tournament, the only concerns were related to the broadcast footprint and league sponsorship, which in turn affected the team sponsorship efforts. All other preparations were in place, thanks to our wonderful operations team in South Africa.”
Kumar added: “We remain committed to the T20 Global League just as we were three months ago. We will be working towards the first edition scheduled for November 2018 with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.”
Following the postponement, CSA has come in for considerable criticism over the planning of the T20GL, with the South African Cricketers’ Association indicating it will seek compensation for players left out of pocket.
However, Moroe is unrepentant about the decision, saying that significant financial losses would have had an unacceptable impact on grassroots projects in South African cricket.
He said: “As far as reputational damage is concerned, I think it’s better for the board to act than not act when they see things going wrong.”
Moroe added: “We are not going to deliver a T20 league to the detriment of CSA and its members. What’s important to CSA is its members and making sure that development continues. If we are going to deliver a league that takes away from that, it would be irresponsible.
“You can’t throw money at a problem like this. The best thing to do is stop the bleeding, take stock and come back stronger.”
Lorgat had been entrusted with the responsibility of developing a high-profile new South African Twenty20 competition to supersede the CSA T20 Domestic Challenge, formerly the RAM Slam T20 Challenge, involving six provincial teams.
However, the expected commercial deals were not delivered in time, and Lorgat left on 28 September, with CSA citing “a breakdown in the relationship between the board and the chief executive.”