CAPE TOWN – Paarl were the big winners and Bloemfontein the big losers as Cricket South Africa confirmed the six venues that will host teams in the new T20 league from next month.
Boland Park in Paarl, despite being one of the smallest venues, beat off the challenge of the established Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein for one of the coveted six spots.
The other five were as expected: Newlands, Wanderers, St George’s Park, Kingsmead and SuperSport Park.
The vibrant atmosphere and easy access for the public at Boland Park – which has a 10 000-capacity, compared to the 20 000 in Bloemfontein – would’ve played a role in their “victory”, as there have almost always been decent crowds for domestic matches.
Cricket SA said in a statement on Thursday that sports consultants Nielsen Sports conducted an independent assessment process.
The ‘fan journey’ was one of the main factors in deciding on the six venues, said CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe.
“The key mandate given to all our Members in applying to be a host venue was the primary goal of luring new and traditional fans, other sports fans and the wider general public to our stadia.
“This process was, in fact, started some time ago when CSA embarked on a National Stadium Grading Process of all our first-class venues.
“The buzz phrase for the independent assessment was the ‘Fan Journey’, which starts with the fans’ arrival at the stadium and includes the full package of transport options, both to and from the stadium, and traffic management, ease of access, safety and security arrangements, catering, and interaction activities and opportunities specific to the fan experience.
“From our observations of other T20 Leagues around the world and competitions in other sporting codes, it has become clear that the fan experience is all important.
“Our research has shown us that the match-day experience is enhanced by fans ‘leaving their seats’, either to engage with other fans in different areas of the stadium, to partake in various sponsor and event activations or to cheer and support their favourite team/player.
“We have every confidence that the plans our Members have come up will enhance these expectations for the T20 League.”
The Boland Park pitch has also improved considerably in recent years, while there were serious questions about the Mangaung Oval deck in the recent ODI between the Proteas and Zimbabwe, where batting was difficult due to the inconsistent bounce and cracked surface.
The next step in the league is likely to be the team names, with a player draft scheduled for October 17, which is next week Wednesday.
Players had until last Friday to register their interest for the event.