Titans appoint new female COO
Opportunities are growing for South Africa women in cricket. Not only is the national women's team backed by a corporate sponsor that allowed some of their players to receive contracts for the first time last summer, but there are more female administrators than ever before, and one woman in particular is leading the way.
On Wednesday, Patricia Kambarami was promoted to the position of Chief Operating Officer of the Titans franchise, the union that has led the way for female administrators for the last three decades. The Titans and their predecessor, the Northerns Cricket Union, were headed by Elise Lombard for 30 years from the 1980s. Until her death in 2012, Lombard was the only female CEO of a franchise in the country.
One of Lombard's most impressive achievements was presiding over the building of SuperSport Park as a Test venue and now, Kambarami, who worked under Lombard, wants to enhance the ground's status as the premier place for cricket in the country.
"Women are changing cricket. There may always be a small divide between men and women, but I don't feel it here at the Titans," Kambarami told ESPNcricinfo. "It is in this franchise's DNA to be the first. We want people to say SuperSport Park is the first place they want to go and watch cricket."
SuperSport Park, with its wraparound grass banks and festive atmosphere, fills up quickly for international matches, but Kambarami wants the stadium to attract crowds even for domestic matches.
"One of my goals is for people to come to domestic games, especially four-day games because that is where your Test players are produced," she said. "We have to start by filling up the ground for the fifty-over and twenty-over competitions, but it is also about educating people and creating culture."
Tradition is something the Titans are not short of. They are the hosts of the annual Ladies' Day, the event which takes place on the first day of every Test they host there and which is solely for the fairer sex. Braais take place all around on match day, and the welcoming nature of the ground has led to SuperSport Park being considered as among the best in the country.
Kambarami, who has a background steeped in sport, has been described by Titans CEO Jacques Faul as the "perfect person" to maintain and enhance the ground's status. She hails from Zimbabwe, where her sports-loving family spent all their leisure time attending everything from football to tennis matches. Her brother, Peter Chingoka, is the MD of Zimbabwe Cricket.
At the Zimbabwe Sun hotel where Kambarami worked, she looked after the establishment's sponsorships, which included Zimbabwe Cricket. Through that experience, she became part of the 2003 World Cup organisation. When the Zimbabwe leg of the tournament was over, Kambarami was invited to South Africa for a week to work on the final. "It was good to get a feel for what things were like in South Africa and I can tell you, it was much bigger," she said.
While in South Africa, she heard about a marketing position at Northerns Cricket and applied for it. For nine years, she worked with Lombard and together they oversaw some major changes in the domestic scene which demanded that they become more flexible in the way they organised the game.
"Eleven years ago, we didn't have Twent20 cricket or all the razzmatazz and we knew it would be silly not to change with the times," Kambarami said. True to her word, the Titans were the first franchise to have dancers at the games to demonstrate their willingness to be part of the jazzing up of the sport.
In that time, Kambarami also completed an MBA to equip herself for bigger things, which Faul earmarked her for. She managed the organisation of the first eKasi Township challenge, the inaugural event of a tournament between the Titans and their neighbours, the Lions, held in an underprivileged area - a rarity in South African cricket.
Kambarami's leadership in that event was one of the reasons she was promoted to becoming Faul's right-hand woman. Kambarami is also studying a Masters degree in sports law, and credits Faul for inspiring her to keep aiming high, not just for herself but for other women as well.
"The new role is going to be more strategic. I will assist the CEO in developing the organisation's policy and goals," she said. "I have learnt so much from Jacques and he has instilled confidence in me."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent