Johan van Heerden, CEO of the Free State Cricket Union, has revealed to SACricketmag.com’s SIMON LEWIS that he is extremely disappointed that Free State and Mangaung Oval have been passed over for South Africa’s much-awaited new T20 league.
‘My gut feel is that I am concerned. We are extremely disappointed and I don’t know how it will affect us in the long run,’ said Van Heerden. ‘My main concern is that it might lead to a drainage of players to other venues.
‘Cricket South Africa gave us an opportunity to do a presentation, and I have requested to look at the other presentations from the other provinces, not to judge them but to see where we went wrong to help us improve for the future. Kimberley and a lot of other venues also applied for a franchise, so it’s not only the Free State that is disappointed, but I would love to see how the judging was done as I need to learn how the process works for the future,’ added Van Heerden, who believes it is essential for South Africa to stage its own T20 competition.
‘South Africa needs to have this T20 league and it will be far better equipped than most T20 leagues around the world, I have no doubt, as we have incredible facilities in South Africa and really good people involved in cricket who will run the tournament,’ he said.
One of CSA’s priorities has been to ensure that the competition enables fans who haven’t previously had the opportunity to enjoy the sport are able to be a part of the occasion. In response to this, Free State had addressed certain issues such as recent low fan turnout by putting plans in place to make transport easier to get to the Mangaung Oval from outlying areas.
‘Naturally, our players will also have the opportunity to move and travel and be out of town to play for other franchises, and, to be fair, if we got it ahead of Boland, for example, then their players would also have had to leave and travel,’ added Van Heerden.
Van Heerden added that one of the big losses for Free State was the impact it would have on the cricketing culture of the province. Free State has a vibrant university community and a proud schools cricket heritage, so to lose out on what South Africa’s T20 league will bring in terms of fans, excitement and the chance to shine a spotlight on the province is a devastating blow.
The Free State’s Mangaung Oval proposal that was sent to CSA (see video below) highlighted that if the central region of South Africa was omitted from the T20 tournament, it would leave ‘a cricket cavity’ in the region and, at the same time, would also create an oversupply of cricket in other areas.
‘We were very proud of our presentation and in it we raised the question, “How can you have a country without a heart?” The Free State is the heart of South Africa and we are losing out on it,’ added Van Heerden.