Dropping the six franchises can invigorate the competitiveness of cricket in South Africa, writes KHALID MOHIDIN.
A baffling statement that will surely have many of SACricketmag.com’s followers raise their eyebrows and slay me on social media. But bear with me, while I take my ‘Cersei Lannister’ walk of shame to explain.
Franchise cricketers are a dying breed. Gone are the days where players are swamped in the malls and the streets by fans eager for signatures of their heroes. Dwindling away are the supporters in the stadiums. Low is the incentive for the youth to take up cricket as a career for reasons beyond simply the ‘love of the game’.
With franchises being dropped, the players who made up the Titans, Cobras, Lions, Warriors, Dolphins and Knights will filter into their respected provinces. This will bring back the rivalries between regions that would be more entertaining for supporters.
Those semi-pro cricketers who don’t make the cut will form the B-teams, and the rest will be funneled into playing club cricket if they desire to stay in the game. This will strengthen the quality of players in the club system. If the level of club cricket rises, it should increase attendance at games. More people at the games will open up the opportunity for tournament or league sponsorships to fund the club unions. This money can be distributed to the winners and to all teams participating in the club system. And so forth.
It’s almost impossible to make a living playing cricket in South Africa at any level, excepting at franchise level and national level. But the restructured model could strengthen club cricket, which could be key to drawing more lucrative advertisers to the sport, and expand the abilities of the fraternity to utilise the new-age media to build support and a following.
Not only will clubs be more profitable, but players who have lost their semi-pro contracts can now get paid by their clubs should they make the first team.
However, there is consensus that this will create an unfair advantage over poorer clubs, and in English Premier League-like fashion the richer clubs may be able to dominate by snaring the best players. But with strict transfer policies and financial fair play rules in place, clubs could be forced into using their net profits to improve their own homegrown talent. To enforce this, a rule could be devised for a certain set number of home-grown players to be included in each A-side, right through the age groups.
This should make club cricket more attractive and give schoolboy cricketers the incentive to take up the sport as a career, and ultimately keep more cricketers playing the game.
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