Cricket South Africa (CSA) have announced that they intend changing the franchise structure back to a provincial structure from the 2021/22 season. The franchise system implemented during the 2004/05 season has proved to be the demise of domestic cricket with regard to the support of the domestic game because it disconnected cricket teams from their communities who could not identify with the new brands. The franchise system also proved to be too narrow regarding opportunities for cricketers, especially with the transformation of South African cricket when it was implemented.
The only way forward for South African cricket is to implement a provincial system of twelve provinces. This would give every cricket centre a provincial team, create more opportunities for players and restore community interest in cricket again. This would once again make South Africa a true cricketing nation.
However, the time is not right to make that strategic change for two reasons. The coronavirus has played havoc in the sporting world and in South Africa we are now only reaching the peak. CSA intends starting the franchise season on 1 November 2020 and the provincial season only on 1 January 2021 – if the coronavirus allows this. If the franchise/provincial system is replaced by a provincial only system, in the vicinity of 40 players will lose their contracts. And that is not considering new talent arriving on the provincial scene. The question is will it be fair for players to potentially lose their contracts in a shortened season in which the coronavirus has caused havoc both on the training and playing field?
Secondly, is CSA in a position to make such a big strategic decision with all the turmoil they find themselves in? One only has to look at the daily media to see all the problems that they are dealing with presently that are not cricket related. Also, the Acting Chief Executive Officer, Jacques Faul, is leaving his post on the 15 September to return the Titans. A new CEO will have to oversee the implementation and completion of the new provincial system due to be announced by the end of November 2020. CSA also need to stabilise their new board at their Annual General Meeting in August, as well as their finances, before finalising a very important part of South African cricket’s future.
It would make sense to have another season of the existing structure and make the change when the current Memorandum of Understanding between CSA and SACA expires. This will give both parties, who have been in conflict with each other in recent times, the space to find the right solution for domestic cricket.