Global T20 League Postponed by Cricket South Africa
The 2017 GLT20 was supposed to be the inaugural edition of a high profile domestic T20 league, based in South Africa. Many of the world’s biggest names had put their hands up, and been selected, to play in the new tournament, running through November and December. Names such as Kieron Pollard, AB DeVilliers, Kevin Pietersen, Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle were the headline stars.
Recently, though, the league has been postponed for season 2017. In an unprecedented move, Cricket South Africa announced the decision less than a month out from the first game.
It is understood that an inability to secure a central rights sponsorship or a television broadcast deal until too late meant the league would suffer a heavy financial loss through it’s initial years.
A USD $25 million loss was forecast for year one of the tournament, which would account for almost a half of the tournament’s cash reserves. Clearly, this made the first edition of the league unfeasible in the eyes of the event organisers.
What were the problems?
Outgoing cricket chief Haroon Lorgat was credited with being a driving force behind the creation of the league, though alarm bells were set off when he and CSA mutually agreed to part ways a few months ago. This decision came despite Lorgat having a contract for the next two years.
The reasons for this separation have become more clear in recent weeks, with the ex-cricket chief’s handling of the broadcast deal associated with the GLT a major reason for his demise.
According to sources, he had taken responsibility for the development of this deal to the exclusion of many of his board members. Just over a month from the scheduled start of the tournament, the deal still had not been signed, and this lack of clarity, combined with an unwillingness to collaborate with board members, raised the ire of many.
The postponement has wide spread ramifications for many people. The players who had been selected to participate are the most obviously affected, with Dale Steyn noting the particularly significant impact the decision will have on young players.
Players like himself and De Villiers are already well established, both financially and as cricketers, but as Steyn noted, ‘this would have been a nice platform for other guys’. The young players involved were looking at significant sums of money and great exposure, neither of which they will now receive.
The positive is that the league is planned to start at the same time in 2018, though contracts will not roll over from this year to the next. Many fringe players will need to continue to perform through the next year to ensure they are again selected for the tournament.
The decision means there is now a lengthy period of time on the South African cricket calendar in which very little cricket will be played. For the time being, the only professional cricket prior to the Boxing Day Test - which will see South Africa play host to Zimbabwe - will be the domestic T20 league.
There have been suggestions that the pay rate for this tournament will be increased to compensate for the postponement of the Global League, though this will still be significantly lower than the GLT would have been.
For the next few months, Cricket South Africa will have their work cut out to smooth over the cracks this tournament has created. Whether replacement games will be scheduled to appease the hunger of starved South African cricket fans is yet to be seen, and significant work also needs to be done to understand exactly what went wrong in the development of the GLT to ensure it doesn’t happen again. We wait with baited breath to see how CSA deals with this one.