Kingsmead Durban (File Photo) © Getty Images
Kingsmead Durban (File Photo) © Getty Images

Cricket South Africa (CSA) will decide the fate of the impending T20 league by the middle of September. The T20 league was earlier scheduled for last year but it was postponed due to non-availability of assured financial stream to nourish the league. Going by the first public statement on the league since a six-team tournament was announced on July 31, in which CSA explained it will not pursue a T20 league ”at all costs” and prefers an approach of “cautious optimism”, a second postponement seems imminent.

In a recent development, CSA’s league suffered another major blow when pay-television broadcaster SuperSport withdrew its equity share worth 49% from the new league, leaving CSA to fund the event entirely on its own. The CSA had earlier decided to move away from private ownership of the league and had hence decided to keep majority stakes with itself. Now due to the withdrawal of the broadcaster which could have provided a major financial boost and sustainability to the league, things look bleak. Also, there is a probability that four of the eight owners of the original T20 Global League are considering legal action against CSA, as reported by ESPNCricinfo.

CSA CEO Thabang Moroe said that cricket is in a healthy state in South Africa and they do not need a T20 league to sustain its health, also because it would take four to seven years for the league to break even.

“It is important to highlight that CSA is a profitable sporting federation and that much as we believe in the product, we do not have to host a T20 league to assure financial sustainability,” Moroe said. “The game of cricket in SA is in a healthy state as demonstrated by the growth in cricket development at grassroots levels, a healthy pipeline of young future talent, as well as women’s cricket that has progressed with leaps and bounds,” he added

CSA has suffered estimated losses worth around R200 million (USD 14.1 million) following the failure of the inaugural GLT20. However, they have said that its annual financial statements would still show “substantial reserves”.

Former CEO of ICC and CSA, Haroon Lorgat had conceptualized the league to move away from the dependence on the “The Big Three” of the cricket world. Avenues for private ownership were conceptualized to ensure a sustainable financial model for the league. However, CSA has currently opted away from an equity model in its recent release which bats for a toned-down ‘in house’ model, which could possibly open up for investments later.

“CSA believes that this can become a global sport event on the national calendar. However, the desire to host such an event cannot be considered at all cost,” CSA’s release read. “In this regard the CSA approach to cautious optimism might not be a popular approach. As a responsible governing body, CSA must ensure that an aspirational event is not to the detriment of the bulk of many cricketing activities that currently serve players and supporters,” it added.

All this means that South African fans may miss out on some top-flight T20 cricket this season if something concrete doesn’t come up soon on the financial front. Howsoever, the league is yet slated to be held in November and December if things go fine.