JOHANNESBURG – South African cricket is facing financial ruin unless it can get approval from the national government to host international teams this summer.
Hundreds of millions of rands could be lost to the sport if the government does not approve a short tour to the country by current world 50-overs champions, England, in November.
It’s not just the absence of the tour itself, which in that case could lead to losses of close to R67-million, but the knock-on effects it could have which would push financial losses for Cricket SA well beyond R100-million.
There is growing anxiety within CSA about the possibility of the England tour – set to comprise three T20 and three One-Day Internationals – not receiving government approval in time. Highly placed sources at CSA have outlined how on numerous occasions the organisation has written to Sports Minister, Nathi Mthethwa, seeking clarity about the tour but no response has been forthcoming, despite president Cyril Ramaphosa having announced an easing of lockdown measures, to Level 1, last week.
Cricket SA has informed the Minister’s office about its plans to host the England team in a bio-secure bubble at a hotel in Paarl. Not only would the travelling party – understood to be in the region of 40 individuals, including players and support staff – be in quarantine, the hotel in which it is scheduled to stay won’t be occupied by anyone else. All training would take place within the bio-secure environment.
Cricket SA is not without its problems – which are numerous and for the most part of its own making particularly from an administrative perspective. From an operational view however, the sport has kept functioning with plans put in place around coaching, interviews conducted for the national selection convenor while players have also been in training.
A schedule for the domestic 2020/21 season has been approved by provincial CEOs with the four-day competition set to start on November 2. It will be a limited season owing to Covid-19. There will be no Mzansi Super League, primarily because a broadcast deal couldn’t be agreed to, but there are plans in place to play a T20 competition involving the existing six franchises.
However it is international tours which are absolutely critical to CSA’s coffers. It is where the organisation’s remaining sponsors get their biggest audience, and more importantly from where foreign broadcast fees are obtained. Those fees are played in dollars and if the Proteas don’t play, those fees don’t get paid.
The knock-on effect is enormous. Not only do the nationally contracted players not get their full salaries, but for domestic coaches and players it also means their salaries will take a hit as do those of ground staff and other operational employees at the various stadia in the country. Job losses will almost certainly occur.
All development initiatives will grind to a halt and all the criticism Cricket SA have rightly faced in recent months over transformation will not be dealt with properly because there’ll be little to no money to fund existing or new projects.
Further down the line should the England tour be cancelled, it will likely effect a proposed tour by Sri Lanka scheduled for December and a trip by Pakistan in late January in the new year.
If the government don’t give approval for international teams to come to South Africa in a timely fashion, the next time the Proteas men’s team – the primary money-maker for South African cricket – will be in action is sometime in March next year.
It’s not the first time, Mthethwa’s office has caused trouble for a national side. In August the national women’s team was set to head to England, but just days before their scheduled departure the tour was cancelled because CSA didn’t secure government approval for the trip.
That despite the fact that CSA had kept the ministry fully informed about the tour, the bio-secure environment in which the players would stay and play and the massive impact it would have on the players who face a critical couple of years which include two world cups, one of which South Africa is supposed to host in 2022.
SA Rugby has also had its troubles with Mthethwa’s office over getting approval for a return to play – which was unnecessarily delayed – and is still awaiting word on whether the Springboks can head to the Rugby Championship in Australia later this year.
Mthethwa’s office had not replied to questions at the time of publication.