Outgoing WP boss Dien fully backs domestic cricket expansion

Nabeal Dien (Gallo Images)
Nabeal Dien (Gallo Images)

Outgoing Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) CEO Nabeal Dien is fully behind the proposed domestic restructure that Cricket South Africa (CSA) is currently considering. 

While nothing has been made official yet, CSA is understood to be close to extending the current six-team franchise system to 12 professional provincial sides from the 2021/22 season. 

Dien, who is stepping down as CEO at the end of April, fully backs the proposed move and believes that the expansion has already been agreed in principle. 

The 12 provinces would be split into two streams based on strength for both One Day and Four Day cricket, Dien says, while the current Mzansi Super League (MSL) would remain but also expand to include franchises from the Free State and Border regions.

"I'm unashamedly a supporter of the 12-team structure," he told media on Wednesday via a video press conference. 

"That has kind of been mooted and accepted, that we have an 'A section' and a 'B section' and relegation and promotion. I believe that will be our domestic structure going forward, especially in four-day and One-Day cricket."

While the concerns over the restructure are financial, especially given the current lockdown on most major international sport as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Dien believes that giving more players in the country the opportunity to turn professional is the ultimate benefit. 

"You've always had the debates around transformation and playing opportunities and I think a 12-team league actually resolves that," he said. 

In much the same way as first-class cricket operates currently in England, the provinces would then face relegation and promotion at the end of each season. 

"It's up to the teams and the actual areas and affiliates to play and get to the top six," Dien explained.

"I believe there should be better rewards in the top six than in the bottom six. I believe players will gravitate towards the teams that play in that top six.

"The people who are running the affiliates in the bottom six would have to do their work. You're going to have to have a vibrant academy system.

"The semi-pro as we know today will fall away entirely, so your feeder will be a vibrant academy system of 19-23 year-olds that will feed all the teams going forward."

When asked if he saw the financial divide between the country's top unions, like Western Province, and the smaller, lesser established unions being an issue, Dien said every union was being affected negatively by the current climate. 

"I don't necessarily see it as being a problem. I think the competitive nature will be something that is good for the game," he said. 

"It's difficult to see what damage is going to be done to the game and those areas in particular. Even the very big affiliates and CSA themselves are going to be as impacted."

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