The 2020/21 domestic cricket season could start in January
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JOHANNESBURG – The 2020/21 domestic cricket season could be reduced by half, as Cricket South Africa seeks to align itself with national government’s regulations regarding the Covid-19 lockdown.
While the sport wasn’t massively impacted by the government’s lockdown in March – because the international portion of the 2019/2020 season had already been completed – the future looks uncertain, and Cricket SA’s chief executive Jacques Faul admitted this week, the organisation was seeking a meeting with the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa.
At the top of the agenda for that meeting – when it is eventually held – will be India’s short tour here in August to play three T20 Internationals but also when the game can be played again.
“We want to get permission to play that (India series) behind closed doors,” said Faul, adding: “It’s a very important tour.”
The importance of that tour relates to Cricket SA’s coffers. The men's national team remains the primary money-maker for the sport in South Africa and getting it playing again – especially against the world’s most popular cricket team – will be hugely beneficial.
Unlike India – which is desperate to get the Indian Premier League played this year – Cricket SA is heavily reliant on the men’s Proteas team being on the field. Domestic cricket doesn’t help CSA’s coffers. In fact it is a big expense and CSA appear happy to sacrifice a full season of domestic matches, if the government’s restrictions make that the case.
“It’s unlikely the season will start as normal,” said Faul. “A more likely scenario we are planning for is half a season starting in January. We have to get to an acceptable level or get permission from the government to play.”
Cricket SA is assessing all options in terms of playing again – especially as those relate to the men’s national side including the creation of a bio-bubble. Faul said the organisation hoped to get the Mzansi Super League up and running, possibly in front of limited audiences, although, again, that would be dependent on the government’s lockdown level.
The future of all sport, not just cricket, is going to be vastly different. What the lockdown – and the absence of live sport – has shown is that the financial model for cricket, which was heavily dependent on in-come from broadcast fees, will have to change.
“Post COVID(19), to have strong leadership is going to be important. I feel that Saurav Ganguly is best positioned for that at the moment. He’s got the credibility, he’s got the leadership skills & he’s someone who can really take the game forward." - Graeme Smith pic.twitter.com/XpXvbpuMG5— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) May 21, 2020
Faul said he was “shell-shocked” by how much of an impact the pandemic has had. “(The financial model) was under threat before Covid-19 as we saw the broadcast bubble burst... everyone got less than before, definitely in terms of net-present value,” said Faul.
“It’s also highlighted how vulnerable we are in terms of live content, the way the funding model works, which needs to be addressed. Funnily our actions still relate to how do we get it on a television screen, so we can still claim that money. As technology develops there could be a way to look at content and how to reach consumers in a different way. We are still a bit shell shocked at what happened to us. It was a case of ‘We could lose the bulk of our income because it doesn’t go through a lens’ and that is not ideal.”
Cricket SA’s finances were already in trouble before the lockdown with the organisation forced into a series of belt-tightening measures as part of a policy dubbed ‘Project-654.’
The organisation had forecast losses of R654-million for the four period up to April 2022 a lot of the debt having resulted from the creation of the MSL and the attempts to launch its predecessor the Global League T20.
“That finance model was already changing before Covid and Cricket SA didn’t mitigate for those changes taking place,” said the SA Cricketers Association’s chief executive, Andrew Breetzke. “What Covid has done is force cricket in South Africa to re-look at the model.”
SACA, is the players union, representing over 300 professional cricketers in the country. It had been at the forefront of a lengthy battle with CSA over the administrations running of the sport, but recently, following changes at CSA, specifically the suspension of Thabang Moroe as CEO, the relationship with CSA has thawed.
Breetzke acknowledged that the players too, would need to come to terms with a changing environment as far as cricket’s finances were concerned.
“We told members last week, post covid the cricket landscape will be different,” Breetzke commented. “Cricket in South Africa could well be smaller and the manner cricket is financed could be different. Our expectations of Cricket SA could be different, there could be a new normal. The models of funding are going to change.”