Southern Premier League June 29, 2009

Tough for SPL to take off - Majola

The Southern Premier League (SPL), the proposed Twenty20 tournament involving teams from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, may not take off in 2011 as planned with officials failing to find a "natural window" for the event. The three participating boards will hold discussions in a few months to decide how the tournament can be salvaged.

Gerald Majola, the chief executive of Cricket South Africa (CSA), told Cricinfo a "preliminary understanding" of the ICC's post-2012 Future Tours Programme (FTP) - discussed at the ICC's annual meeting in London last week - has made officials from the three boards realise there would be no room to hold the SPL every October, as originally planned. The FTP will, however, be tweaked further before being finalised.

"There are serious challenges to holding the SPL," Majola said. "The main concern is our inability to find a natural window for the event, like the IPL has every April-May. There is already the Champions Twenty20 League every October and there are other bilateral commitments falling in that period. Quite simply, we are not sure whether we will have the time to hold such an event or whether we will get top international players for the tournament. At this point, it looks tough for the SPL."

Majola said that officials from the three boards might meet in August to evaluate various options in this regard. "If we find that holding the tournament is viable and makes financial sense, we will continue to work on it," he said.

Justin Vaughan, the chief executive of New Zealand Cricket (NZC), said though he wouldn't want to completely shelve plans for the SPL, something had to give amid the Champions League, IPL and bilateral commitments. "I don't want to put a full stop on it and say it won't happen but if you want to have an IPL, Champions League, SPL and bilateral tours, something has to give," Vaughan told the Herald on Sunday. "In its current state, the FTP looks very attractive to us, so it would be of considerable financial sacrifice to us to try to carve out an SPL. The FTP is not locked in yet, so it is difficult to make a definitive statement."

The SPL, involving franchises from the three concerned countries, was proposed last year and was expected to give particpating teams the option of recruiting foreign players, like the IPL. The original plan had the league in two legs - one in Africa, the other to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand - and was to be shoehorned into a calendar along with other similar Twenty20 leagues such as the IPL, England's P20 and the Champions Twenty20 League.

The current FTP lapses into 2012 and there have been some, like Federation of International Cricketers' Associations chief executive Tim May, who have said the ICC and its members should rework the FTP to reduce international fixtures and create windows for domestic events such as IPL, which involves international players.

Ajay Shankar is a deputy editor at Cricinfo