T20 Global League: Good or bad for SA cricket?

Lloyd Burnard
Lloyd Burnard

Cape Town - The owners have been unveiled, the cities named and South Africa's first ever T20 Global League has been given the green light. 

The tournament will start in November with a final on December 16 and is the country's answer to the Indian Premier League and Australia's Big Bash. 

South Africa has been standing by and watching as the rest of the world profits from T20 cricket and they have decided - in 2017 - that it is time to cash in. 

But not everybody is convinced.

While CSA hosted a lavish function at London's Bvlgari Hotel on Monday to announce the new owners and their marquee Proteas players, the reaction from back home hardly mirrored that hype, if social media is anything to go by.

There are concerns: Won't another global T20 tournament further endanger Test cricket? Isn't this just another money-spinner? Won't this see more players turn their backs on international cricket? 

The answer to all of those questions is probably 'yes', but the concerns over Test cricket's future and players abandoning their international responsibilities are not new and would certainly remain even without the Global League. 

In truth, this should have happened years ago. 

The IPL has just had its 10th edition and it has taken the Big Bash six years to become a success. 

Then there is the Caribbean Premier League, the Pakistan Super League and the Bangladesh Premier League - all of those regions having taken the decision long ago to dip their toes into the lucrative pond of privately owned T20 cricket. 

Those tournaments have had varying amounts of success, but the point is that they all got to the party way before South Africa did. 

Why South Africa took so long to get on board is not clear. What is clear is that there is a lot riding on this. 

The franchises have all signed 10-year contracts with CSA and are expecting a return on their sizable investments.

To give some idea of how much money is at stake, Hong Kong company City Sports, who through businessman Sushil Kumar has purchased the Bloemfontein-based franchise, has reportedly invested more than $100 million over the 10 year period (South China Morning Post). 

That equates to more than $10 million (R129.8 million) per year.

Presuming that each franchise spent the same, that takes the total kitty to something near R1 billion over 10 years. 

CSA needs to deliver and ensure that their new partners are satisfied.

While broadcast deals - in South Africa and abroad - are yet to be signed, the tournament will also need the support of the South African public.

That is perhaps the biggest concern. There are eight venues and they must all get their stadiums as close to full as possible on game days.   

Ticket prices will obviously have a major say, but the fact that the tournament takes place in holiday season is surely an early plus. 

The biggest positive from a South African cricket perspective is that this competition could keep young cricketers in the country. 

Players who are not in the national set-up have had a tough ride. They are not paid overly well and they do not get a lot of exposure. 

As a result, moves abroad become attractive. 

If you feel that you are not going to play for the Proteas, who would you devote your career to the low-key South African domestic circuit when you could go overseas on a Kolpak deal and make some real money? 

The T20 Global League will hopefully make young South African cricketers reconsider. In addition to their domestic contracts, they will now have the added bonus of a Global League contract and an end-of-year bonus for a tournament that lasts a few weeks. 

While the financial reward is obvious, the tournament will also place these players on the international stage and give them exposure that South African domestic cricket never could. IPL franchises will be watching promising South African talents more regularly, increasing their chances of making even more money. 

The issue of transformation is also something that cannot be avoided. 

CSA has taken the decision not to enforce targets in the Global League the way that they do in South African domestic cricket. 

It is, after all, an international tournament and international owners cannot be expected to understand and navigate their way around the unique intricacies of the South African political landscape.

The domestic T20 Challenge remains and the same targets - six players of colour and three black Africans in every starting line-up – will be enforced. 

The hope is that, as a result of the work done by CSA to deepen the pool of black talent in the country, the players included in the Global League will be naturally representative. 

If they aren't, government interference can never be ruled out and CSA will have to be mindful of that along the way. 

For the purists, this is another blow to the game. 

December is historically a month for Test cricket - Boxing Day and New Year's combining for some of the most mouth-watering series of all time. 

Now, it will be a month of T20 extravaganza with the Global League (December 16 final) and Big Bash expected to overlap for a few days. 

We all want Test cricket to be preserved. It remains the ultimate form of the game and without it cricket simply wouldn't be cricket. 

But in this age of privatization, money talks. 

Cricket players today are able to make more than ever before, and that is something that cannot be avoided. 

In order to keep players happy, and ultimately keep them playing Test cricket, they need to be financially looked after. 

In an ideal world, the pride and passion that comes with playing for your country should over-ride everything else. 

But if you still believe in that, then you probably still believe in the tooth fairy. 

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Follow Sport24 journalist @LloydBurnard on Twitter...

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