The superstars are coming but the region’s biggest cricket league could lose millions in its initial phase

By Robson Sharuko

Harare – It’s being billed as the biggest convergence of international cricketers in Southern Africa in 14 years but the T20 Global League – South Africa’s version of the money-spinning Indian Premier League – could be a nightmare for organisers in its initial phases amid reports the tournament could incur huge losses running into millions of dollars.

Already, Cricket South Africa have been forced to admit they are now being forced to revise expectations of the revenues which the tournament, expected to explode into life on November 3 and run until December 16, could generate.

Some of the world’s finest cricketers – Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo of the West Indies – Brendon McCullum of New Zealand, Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy and Kevin Petersen of England and Sri Lanka pacer Lasith Malinga have been signed by the eight franchises who will take part in the showcase.

Every franchise has to sign one international marquee player and Gayle, Pollard, Bravo, McCullum, Morgan, Petersen, Roy and Malinga – a crew who represent some of the finest crop when it comes to Twenty20 cricket in the world – have been signed for duty.

Each of the eight franchises also has one local marquee player and David Miller, Kagiso Rabada, JP Duminy, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Imran Tahir, Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis have made the grade.

Former Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor, who quit county cricket in England to return and represent his country again, will play for the Stellenbosch Monarchs where he will reunite with his former Nottinghamshire teammate Alex Hayles of England.

Wahab Riaz, Umar Akmal, Chris Jordan, Yasir Shah, Junaid Khan and Tom Curran, who was born in South Africa and went to school in Zimbabwe before choosing to play for England at international level, are some of the stars expected to grace the event.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Stars, Benoni Zalmi, Stellenbosch Monarchs, Bloemfontein City Blazers, Jo’burg Giants, Cape Town Knight Riders, Durban Qualanders and Pretoria Mavericks are the eight franchises who will battle for honours.

Already, millions have been poured by the private owners of the clubs into the event but Cricket South Africa cautioned against wild expectations of this tournament becoming an immediate money-spinning venture by saying they expect to run some losses in the initial phase of the tourney.

“At the moment we’re looking at a net loss of $25 million,’’ CSA acting chief executive Thabang Moroe told reporters at a media briefing.

“For the big teams – in Jo’burg‚ Pretoria and Cape Town – you’re looking at a loss of $1,5 million. “From a broadcast point of view‚ combining local and global rights‚ you’re looking at an accumulative figure of $17 million to $18 million roughly.

“Initially, we were looking at a total net revenue of $32 million as far as TV and central sponsorship are concerned. At the moment it will be in its 20s.

“We have cut down‚ but not to wane the quality of the tournament. We’re making sure our members are not the ones who get hurt the most.

“We’re confident we can help them regain those losses. CSA and the team owners will still suffer losses. Hopefully‚ depending on how well we negotiate with the broadcasters‚ the team owners will break even in year three.”

Cricket South Africa have a long-standing relationship with SuperSport but, given the event now needs to be broadcast around the world, Ortus Sport and Entertainment have been handed the responsibility of selling the tournament broadcasting rights.

There are some who believe this has caused some conflict in this key area where revenue generated is likely to offset some of the projected costs and delayed the signing of a deal with partners in this field.

But, amid the fears of doom and gloom, it appears some of the owners who have injected considerably into the project are patient and know that the financial rewards might not be reaped in the first year or two.

“We have committed and it is like any other business, takes three years to make a profit. Why would this be different?” Dubai-based businessman, Ajay Sethi, owner of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars franchise, told reporters.

Sethi is an Indian businessman who set base in Dubai in 1993 and already owns a team in the Caribbean Premier League and wants to get one in the Indian Premier League.

He is the owner of Channel 2 group Corporation which last year sealed an eight-year deal with the International Cricket Council to have the exclusive global audio rights for all the biggest cricket events until 2023.

“We have got the audio rights for all ICC events until 2023. We are the global ICC audio partners. We also recently launched our cricket App,” Sethi told the Khaleej Times newspaper.

“I first won the audio right in 2009 for the Middle East and America. I performed well, so when the chance came to become global ICC audio partner, I jumped at it.”

He said he was committed to be part of the T20 Global for the long haul.

“All owners are committed to staying in the league. The owners are happy to accept those losses for the first two years.”

Like any new project, it’s ridiculous to expect that the T20 Global – given the way it has recruited from around the world – will just explode from the word go without any teething problems.

But, clearly, what can’t be doubted right now is that despite the projected financial losses that will be felt in the first two editions, those who are battling to make it a success story are not leaving any stone unturned to ensure they deliver a spectacular show.

Fourteen years after the game’s biggest stars set base in this part of the world for the 2003 Cricket World Cup held in South Africa and Zimbabwe, the game’s fans from around the region could be in for a summer festival like no other.

October 2017
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