T20 Cricket – too much of a good thing

First there was the Indian Premier League, then the Big Bash in Australia followed and hot on its heels the Caribbean T20 Challenge found its foothold in an ever-shrinking gap that is essentially a global market. Small wonder, in my view, that the T20 Global League in South Africa struggled to find traction.
The key to all these tournaments is sufficient sponsorship and a TV company willing to fork out the remaining millions for the lucrative television rights. From what I can gather, the new T20 league in South Africa had fallen horribly short on both afore mentioned fronts. The postponement, as highlighted elsewhere in this issue, comes in the wake of former CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat’s resignation in September. By all accounts, Lorgat was at the forefront of the television rights negotiations. Cricket South Africa Interim CEO Thabang Moroe subsequently revealed that CSA would be facing a $25 million (R342 million) loss for the staging of the tournament.
CSA had, a few short weeks ahead of the scheduled start of the tournament in early November, been unable to find a headline sponsor. Word has it that Supersport was also only prepared to fork out less than a quarter of the millions being asked for in return for the right to broadcast the T20 Global League.
It was clearly a disaster waiting to happen had the tournament gone ahead. While I’m pretty sure the eight venues around the country would have attracted a fair-size audience, its not local bums on seats that are going to pay the ‘rent’ in this instance. It begs the question: has the T20 format become saturated due to the specialist T20 Leagues already in existence? I would hazard a guess that it has, when one considers that T20 internationals continue through the season anyway, added to which there’s also an ICC T20 World Cup every couple of years… just in case the interest was waning.
Personally, I can’t watch the IPL anymore – there’s just too much of it. At last count, there were something like 130 matches through the 2017 edition in April and May – and that’s before the playoffs. Viewing time is quite convenient for Supersport’s audience on the African continent but when it comes to the Big Bash and the Caribbean versions – not so much. I know the TV companies crunch the numbers all the time and I’m sure they’ve noticed a dip in their couch-potato audiences. Clearly, TV audience projections for a South African T20 Global League were not that flash either, otherwise Supersport may well have been tempted to meet Lorgat’s asking price for the broadcast rights.
I do feel sorry for the players, especially the lesser-established ones who had been bought for the base asking price of $130 000 for two months work. It still represented in rand terms more than R1.8 million which is proper money in anyone’s book. AS SA Cricket Association CEO Tony Irish rightly pointed out, these players are going to have to be compensated – especially those who may have missed out on other contracts by signing with the new T20 Global League. Good luck sorting out that mess, Tony.
There does seem to be a genuine commitment from the franchise owners, including Nelson Mandela Bay Stars owner Ajay Sethi, to return same time same place next year and get the show on the road. Rather safe than sorry and Cricket South Africa now at least has time on its side to dot the I’s and cross the T’s and ensure they put on a success story rather than a half-baked disaster. The key, of course, is to find a headline sponsor prepared to plough in millions of dollars for the privilege, but it may be a case of laying the golden egg first. I would surmise that that headline sponsor would only be interested once he sees the TV rights commitment from the likes of a Supersport or a Skysports – or Ajay Sethi’s own Communications company for that matter. Once that commitment is in place, and only then, can we start contemplating a T20 global league on South African shores.
…. No sooner had the ink dried on my column last month, where I delved into the ever-growing business of sport being used as a vehicle to raise funds for charity, (I was involved in a very successful fundraiser for the Aurora Special Care Centre) than I received a call from Tanya Jackson asking me if I would be prepared to be an ambassador for the Smile Foundation. Of course I didn’t hesitate and I look forward to helping this wonderful organisation where I can – it would appear from the outset that its going to require hopping onto a mountain bike in the Smile Foundation’s rather funky colours and hopefully raising a couple of bucks in the process.
The first assignment has already been successfully completed in the company of my fitness freak of a wife Carol-Anne. The place was Baywest Mall and the occasion was the Smile Foundation’s annual Spinathon. There were three one-hour long sessions with a different trainer in charge of each sold-out session of 50 ‘spinners’ who paid seriously good money for the privilege. Again, there is something most rewarding in raising a proper sweat for a good cause.
Springbok loose forward Siya Kolisi was blown away by his experience when he visited the kids during the Smile Foundation week in Port Elizabeth in June when the Boks were here to play France. The Foundation provides the opportunity for children with cleft pallet and other facial defects, plus those with burn wounds, to receive surgery that can literally put the smile back on their faces to ensure that they have a fighting chance of taking their normal place in society. Thank you Tanya Jackson in affording me the opportunity to officially fly the flag for the Smile Foundation and promote the wonderful work that it does, watch this space.

Above: Biscuit and Cashie at the Smile Foundation Spinathon. © Lee-Anne du Preez

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