South Africa’s domestic T20 league no certainty to run in 2018

Last year, South Africa’s own domestic T20 league was supposed to begin. Not long prior to the start of the tournament - named the GLT20 - however, it was cancelled, with Cricket South Africa announcing that the financial implications which would result from it would be too significant to justify it going ahead. 

The prospect of the league had drawn many big name global stars, with the likes of Kieron Pollard, AB De Villiers, Kevin Pietersen, Brendon Mccullum and Chris Gayle all putting their hands up to play in the inaugural edition of the tournament.

Reportedly, a major reason for the cancellation of the league was the inability to secure a broadcast deal until very late on in the piece. Outgoing cricket chief Haroon Lorgat, who has since finished up his role with CSA, was reported to be a driving force behind the league. Late in his tenure as chief, however, it appears he began to take on a role which was perhaps too significant, with many sources claiming he was responsible for the broadcast deal to the extent that he excluded other board members.

At the time of the cancellation, the suggestion was that 2018 would subsequently be the year to host the first ever edition of the tournament. In July of this year, that appeared even more likely when CEO Thabang Moroe announced that the GLT20 would have six teams, rather than the eight which it had planned for last year. Certainly a reduction in the size of the tournament, but an admission that CSA intended to go ahead with it nonetheless.

During the week, however, the indications once again changed when CSA stated that they would decide by the middle of September if the league would in fact go ahead. A major reason for this appears to be the withdrawal of pay-television broadcast SuperSport, who announced that they would withdraw from their share of the tournament. As a result, CSA would be forced to fund the event themselves, once again bringing into the its financial viability.

In a statement, Moroe stressed that CSA is under no obligation to host this league, highlighting that ‘CSA is a profitable sporting federation and that…we do not have to host a T20 league to assure financial stability’. This is a fairly significant step away from the stance that Lorgat took when he was chief. He believed that the introduction of the GLT20 would allow CSA to reduce its reliance on tours against England, India and Australia. Seemingly, without Lorgat in the picture, CSA do not see the GLT20 as equally necessary to the continual financial strength of cricket in the country as Lorgat did. 

The statement released by Moroe certainly suggested that the CSA has some desire to host the tournament, and still believes in its potential moving forward. As he said, however, it cannot be ‘considered at all costs’, and ‘cautious optimism’ needs to be employed. 

Clearly the ideal scenario is for the league to be played and to be successful, but if the latter part of that scenario isn’t viable then it makes sense for it to be postponed once again, however much irritation that may cause fans. Like last year though, another postponement will result in a fairly significant period of time in which virtually no cricket will be played, with only a very short trip to Australia in November taking place between the Zimbabwe tour in October and the Boxing Day test against Pakistan. 

CSA certainly have some work to do to figure this out, and continually changing their stance on the league does no one any favours. As Moroe said, however, it needs to be pursued with a thorough understanding of the various impacts it will have, and if it will have significant financial repercussions for an organisation which is currently doing just fine, there is no need to rush its inception.

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