The second edition of the Mzansi Super League (MSL) has just been completed and from a cricketing point of view it was a success. The quality of event and cricket was endorsed by the Australians Ben Dunk and Dan Christian who are well travelled T20 cricketers. Only the Jozi Stars disappointed and never won a match under new coach Donovan Miller. For the rest, all five could still qualify for the playoffs in the last two rounds. The MSL provided very good opportunities and experience for South African cricketers.
The problem remains the financial sustainability of the MSL as the projected loss will once again run into millions of rands. The major problem is that the SABC was again awarded the rights to broadcast the tournament. It is common knowledge that the SABC does not have the funds, like the pay channel SuperSport, to secure the rights at the market value to finance the tournament. The MSL was televised in the United Kingdom, the sub-continent and in the Americas. However, the financial return on this would be limited as it is a foreign tournament, much like the Indian Premier League and Big Bash are on SuperSport.
If Cricket South Africa (CSA) is to make the MSL commercially viable, they will need to partner with SuperSport to ensure the future of the tournament. Even if the SABC viewership is bigger than SuperSport, it means nothing if it doesn’t translate financially. SuperSport will ensure that a market value will be paid for the television rights and this in return will give CSA the finances to run the MSL. Also, SuperSport will add a marketing component to the MSL that is missing at the moment because of the lack of finances.
Another aspect that needs to be addressed urgently is that, except for an associate sponsor, there is no event sponsor and none of the six teams have sponsors. This was surprising for an event that was on SABC, as the one advantage it has is a bigger viewership than SuperSport. This is an area that CSA will need to address urgently to secure the future of the MSL. The MSL is now an established brand and with the right strategies must be marketable both locally and internationally to corporates.
The crowd attendances were disappointing – like in the first edition – and leave room for massive improvement. The tournament should be moved to the holiday season of December and January, like in the halcyon days of Benson & Hedges and Standard Bank cricket. The MSL and international cricket need to coexist to maximise crowd attendances over the prime cricket viewing period. The current window that is mainly in November competes with a busy period for the working class, students and scholars.
The quality of the overseas players needs to be addressed too as only Dunk, Jason Roy and Wahab Riaz were worth watching. The return of the Kolpak players as overseas players added no value to the MSL. In fact, it was a farce. The way forward would be to limit the overseas players to two per team by negotiation. This would ensure quality overseas players, like Andre Russell and Dwaine Bravo in years gone by, that would add value to the MSL.
It is important for CSA to ensure that the MSL is financially sustainable as it has become an important part of the South African season. South African cricket would be poorer without the MSL.