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Richardson explains how Boland and North West made the grade for CSA’s top-flight

Tiisetso Malepa Sports reporter
Cricket SA HQ in Johannesburg.
Cricket SA HQ in Johannesburg.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) moved into a new era on Monday with the announcement of a 15-team first-class system that sprung a couple of surprises during the virtual announcement.

Eastern Province‚ Free State‚ Gauteng‚ KwaZulu-Natal Coastal‚ Northerns Cricket and Western Province were announced as part of the eight teams who will start the new domestic playing structure in Division 1‚ but it was the inclusion of Boland and North West Cricket that was least expected.

North West Cricket has been under administration for over two years after CSA appointed an administrator in December 2018 after allegations of financial irregularities and maladministration in relation to the misappropriation of millions meant for the upgrade of the union’s stadium in Potchefstroom.

Division 2 will be made up of South Western Districts‚ Easterns Cricket‚ KwaZulu-Natal Inland‚ Border‚ Limpopo‚ Northern Cape and Mpumalanga.

Although North West has been competitive in terms of results on the field over the past few years‚ their financials have not been in order for three consecutive financial years.

Dave Richardson‚ who chaired the committee that oversaw the bidding and evaluation process‚ gave an insight as to how the two unions had a cutting edge over the others.

“I think in both Boland and North West Cricket‚ Boland in particular have a tremendous fan base down in their region especially among the coloured community‚” Richardson said.

“They have a true culture and love for cricket in the region. They have a stadium [Boland Park] which is of very good quality and they are also ambitious when it comes to the development of their stadium‚ and their development pathways are excellent‚ and they produce results.”

Despite the well-documented financial and control failures in North West over the past three years operating under an administrator‚ Richardson said the union is well run even though its period of under administration has not yet been officially lifted.

“In North West I think they are well-administered and have developed their infrastructure tremendously‚” said Richardson.

Millions meant for the stadium upgrade at North West Cricket’s Senwes Park in Potchefstroom were misappropriated and no one has been held responsible to date.

Richardson said the proximity to the University of North West which has impressive facilities tipped the scales in their favour.

“In North West University they have a huge opportunity to attract and develop and retain players to their province and then their results on the field over the past four years have been consistent.

“So I think that gave them the edge when it came to inclusion in Division 1.”

Richardson and CSA acting CEO Pholetsi Moseki allayed potential fears that the new domestic structure will see the ‘haves’ in Division 1 continue to prosper while the ‘have nots’ in Division 2 struggle to keep their heads above water.

“I suppose in all promotion-relegation type of systems teams that come up will have a challenge in being competitive at a higher level.

“They won’t be used to be playing against teams of a higher quality but hopefully having performed at the best in Division 2 they will be the best team to meet that challenge.

“The thing I like most about a relegation and promotion system is that there is no room for complacency.

“One of the challenges with the franchise system was that franchises were going through cycles and stages where if you came sixth [or bottom]‚ there are no real consequences‚ and promotion and relegation has consequences.

“Some of the points in favour of promotion and relegation can be viewed as a negative‚ like when you get demoted you have the potential of losing sponsors and financial support but I think the overall benefit is making sure that the teams are competitive.”

Acting CEO Moseki said CSA hopes the two-year period in which there will be no relegation and promotion will be enough time for the teams to get their houses in order and ready for the top division.

“We’ve got 15 professional teams in two divisions and‚ yes‚ some of these teams come from areas that are economically distressed. But we do hope that in these two years they will basically prepare themselves and will get all the necessary support from the head office and everyone else to make sure that whoever gets promoted after two years will be ready to compete in Division 1.”

Moseki did not elaborate on the much cost of restructuring process but said CSA is hopeful that the new structure will see each team commercialise themselves better and seek opportunities in the market to be self-sustainable.