JOHANNESBURG – Cricket South Africa (CSA) appear to be skating on thin commercial ice with the new Mzansi Super League (MSL), which is without a tournament sponsor less than three weeks to go before the first ball is bowled.
None of the tournament’s six competing franchises have sponsors either. Additionally, there are several other properties within CSA’s portfolio that are also currently sponsor-less.
These include an event sponsor for the men’s SA cricket team, the lack of a sponsor for the domestic four-day competition (which used to be called the Sunfoil Series) and no sponsor of the national women’s side as they embark on the World T20, this role having been once played by Momentum.
Said one consultant to cricket in the marketing and research space: “We all know that the economy isn’t in great shape, but if this state of affairs carries on for the next three years, the sport is going to be bankrupt.”
While there is no tournament sponsor at this late stage for the MSL, CSA have moved to try and rectify this before the tournament’s official start on November 16.
On October 19, CSA announced that they had entered into a commercial relationship with the Singapore-based agency, Global Sports Commerce (GSC). For a fee reputed to be in the region of R40-million for five years, GSC have secured all of the Mzansi’s commercial and broadcast rights.
They will sell these onwards in hope of recouping their losses, while CSA limit their risk and exposure to international markets that last year showed reluctance to buy their T20 product.
When it was put to CSA’s spokesman, Koketso Gaofetoge, that sponsors remained thin on the ground for the Mzansi, despite GSC’s appointment, he said: “There will be commercial partners.”
The strategy to appoint GSC would appear to be in keeping with CSA’s cautious approach to a tournament that was postponed last year – when it was dubbed the T20Global League – in the wake of then chief executive, Haroon Lorgat’s, dismissal.
Instead of having private owners this time around the six teams will be centrally-owned by CSA. A mixed ownership model might come to pass in the near future, but in the meantime CSA is content to minimise its risk.
A commercial lifeline might appear in the form of the 2019 Indian Premier League. A delegation from India visited several local stadiums this week, but whether they are here to help with Mzansi or whether South Africa’s hosting of next year’s IPL is a fait accompli remains moot.
“You never know with the Indians,” said an industry source. “They play their cards so close to their chests and, as you know, Indian cricket is terribly factionalised. I’d watch this space.”
What the arrival of the Mzansi also does is that it over-stocks an already congested cricket calendar.
“One of our real concerns is injuries and player burnout,” said the SA Players’ Association’s Tony Irish. “JP Duminy (shoulder) and Wiaan Mulder (groin) are both struggling with injuries. We think it could become a feature of a long season – particularly for the bowlers.”
African News Agency (ANA)