It is now ten years since Cricket South Africa scrapped the provincial system and replaced it with the six franchise teams. The restructuring was a brave decision after the provincial system had served South African cricket so well for over a hundred years. Looking back after this period, has the franchise system served South African cricket as well as expected?
With regards to producing players for the national team the franchise system has been a success. The Proteas have enjoyed a period of relative dominance in the Test arena and are currently the number one ranked Test team in world cricket. This is a position they have now occupied for a few years. Also, they enjoyed historic series’ wins in Australia and England on two occasions each. They have achieved more success than any other Test team in South Africa’s history.
However, there is a school of thought that this model based on the Australian six state teams is too narrow with regards producing enough cricketers for modern day international cricket and for CSA’S transformation objectives.
The Australian model worked well for many years when Test cricket was the main focus with One Day International cricket. The modern day schedule is a lot more congested with ICC tournaments, T20 internationals, rich domestic T20 tournaments and increased international cricket in general.
CSA has an aggressive transformation policy at franchise level and the six team system limits both merit selection and creating opportunities for transformation players. The danger for South African cricket is that many young players are giving up the game or seeking opportunities in other countries. The amount of South Africans playing for England and New Zealand is proof of this.
Franchise cricket has failed to appeal to the cricket fans. Not even the T20 competition is well supported today. It is easy to say that support for domestic cricket has dwindled around the cricketing world and that South Africa is no different, but the degree of the decline is more severe than in other countries. It should be a concern to the administrators.
The franchise teams have no geographical identity and belong to no community; therefore, they have no support. Also taking professional cricket teams from smaller venues like Paarl and Kimberley has destroyed the support for cricket in those areas.
Commercially the franchises are struggling to attract sponsors, advertisers and marketing their competitions because of the lack of support for franchise cricket. This has resulted in franchises having to depend on CSA grants generated from international cricket.
Franchise cricket has succeeded with regards to the cricketing aspects, but from a commercial and marketing angle it has been a failure.