Cricket South Africa claim that for now at least the T20 Global League tournament will take place.
For the sake of the credibility of the organisation it simply must. Too much has already been invested in the event. Plans for the tournament were outlined to the International Cricket Council, a launch occurred in London, consortia and individuals (including well known celebrities) have bought teams and players and coaches have been drafted.
It would be deeply embarrassing if it were to be cancelled now.
It’s been a messier infancy than many in CSA had anticipated. There were always likely to be some teething problems in establishing an event of this nature, but the GLT20 has been beset by major worries since CSA president Chris Nenzani and now ousted CEO Haroon Lorgat, pictured, informed the ICC back in February about plans to establish the competition.
Chief among those troubles has been the inability to sign up a broadcast deal, which is so central to the way in which modern sports functions. It didn’t help Lorgat that throughout the year he’s been constantly giving firm assurances that a deal was imminent.
A lucrative broadcast package was central to the success of the competition. To understand that we have to go back to the summer of 2013/14 when India, shortened their tour to this country resulting in a significant financial loss for CSA.
It is now somewhat ironic that Lorgat was the major reason for the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s decision to shorten that tour. Lorgat subsequently wanted to ensure CSA were protected from future financial loss in the event of tours being cancelled or shortened - particularly where India were concerned - and the creation of a city-based franchise T20 tournament was the best option.
Cricket SA would no longer be reliant on income based around tours from England, Australia and India - the only three countries which generate money - and would annually be able to earn large sums from its very own answer to the Indian Premier League.
The trouble is it required faith from investors and while those who bought franchises were happy to display that faith, others weren’t, particularly broadcasters and in the case of CSA especially so with SuperSport, who Lorgat was primarily engaged with.
Back in June when the tournament’s logo was unveiled, Lorgat said negotiations with SuperSport were “at a sensitive stage,” but that he was confident negotiations would “close shortly.”
The launch took place in London three weeks later - an extravagance that involved flying over media and former players to a posh hotel where they were put up for the night - while franchise owners and marquee players were also revealed.
It was an arrogant exercise, that took place a day after the conclusion of the ICC’s Champions Trophy and just down the road from the English Cricket Board which itself is in the midst of creating its own city-based franchise T20 tournament. The ECB though has given itself a couple of years to work through logistical issues whereas CSA had tried to do it in a few months.
Cricket SA had hoped to finalise the broadcast deal in July, in time for the player draft to be televised - there was no deal and draft was only shown on-line. By that point the murmurings from some senior CSA administrators grew louder. Reports emerged of a fall out between Lorgat and CSA chief financial officer Nassei Appiah who had been apparently frozen out of all work related to the GLT20.
The budget for the tournament, according to CSA statements for the last financial year released at the organisation’s AGM at the start of the September, had blown out to R4.5-million - with a net loss of R3.3-million incurred. And there was still no broadcast deal on the table, despite more assurances from Lorgat at the players' draft.
The situation had become virtually untenable. Lorgat was in India negotiating a deal to broadcast the GLT20 in India last week. Nothing came of that although there were tentative plans in place to announce some sort of arrangement in a couple of weeks time along with the unveiling of the tournament’s trophy.
Factions had emerged within CSA’s administration - those who sided with Lorgat and those against - but as one administrator put it last Thursday when Lorgat and CSA parted ways; “You could feel this was coming, a lot of the guys are just upset that they are hearing more about deals through the media than what they were from the CEO and yet there was still nothing on the table.”
It’s a right old mess now. Thabang Moroe, the vice-president, is now acting CEO and with just over a month to go to the start of the tournament, he has to mend bridges with CSA’s local broadcast partner, to ensure competition gets televised. Whatever grand plans Lorgat had for a lucrative TV deal will most likely have to be shelved. If the competition isn’t broadcast those owners Lorgat worked so hard to sign up will be very angry and CSA very embarrassed.
What Lorgat had told some would be his legacy to South African cricket, is, sadly for him, very much a stain on his name.