JOHANNESBURG – The Central Gauteng Lions believe the new structure for domestic cricket will have benefits for the sport both on and off the field.
While there is still concern in some quarters about a dilution of playing standards and that the financial implications could yet leave some provinces struggling, the CGL has an optimistic outlook.
“What the franchise system did was confuse the buyer,” said the CGL, chief executive, Jono-Leaf Wright, about trying to source commercial partnerships during the franchise era. “We sat with two hats; I was the CEO of the Central Gauteng Lions, trying to sell an amateur product. I also had the hat of being the Lions CEO, where I was trying to sell a professional product.”
“Now what we are selling is an aligned product, that taps into the amateur and the professional teams.”
“I think the restructure has created a lot of energy within domestic cricket. From the Lions point of view, we have attracted new partners and sponsors, who historically have never touched cricket. We really are the master of our own destiny now, the masters of cricket in the city, cricket in the province.”
The 2021/22 domestic season sees a return to the ‘old’ provincial format, which Cricket SA hopes will save money and also reignite the regional element, which went missing in the franchise system that had been utilised for 17 seasons.
“The franchise system got a bit stale,” said Lions president, Anne Vilas. “I don’t know how many more times I could watch the Lions play the Cobras, home and away, in every competition, (where) there was no consequence for coming last or second last.”
“This is a great system; more teams will be playing at a higher level, even though the franchise system was supposed to be a high level. There is a consequence for not doing well in the (first) Division). Maybe it was tough to find better players; ultimately I think there’ll be a crop of good players coming through, playing at a better level.”
Vilas added that a feeder system for the provinces may also prove beneficial. “I think we need to look at having B teams again. It may be a financial problem, so we can’t do it right now, but in order to sustain the top team, you must have a batter B section, but we will see how that pans out going forward.”
The Lions union, held its AGM on Wednesday evening, and despite a difficult year, that included retrenching a handful of staff, and making a loss of just over R1-million, still have a positive outlook.
The union said it would be strengthening its development and transformation initiatives, making it the ‘bedrock’ of its future strategies. These include assisting in upgrading facilities in Soweto, Alexandria and Lenasia with a goal of hosting a senior provincial match at one of those venues within the next two years.
The CGL will also be working closely with the City of Joburg and local leadership in those areas to assist fans to attend matches at the Wanderers, either via a pick-up service or shuttles.