CSA relaunch T20 league in partnership with state-owned broadcaster SABC

A fan holds the South African flag aloft Getty Images

Cricket South Africa's relaunched T20 tournament will be broadcast exclusively on the terrestrial, state-owned broadcaster SABC, and has been named the "T20 Cricket League". CSA and the SABC have announced a joint partnership for the new league, giving the SABC exclusive official broadcast rights for the Sub-Saharan region.

"This is a landmark moment for cricket in South Africa," CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe said. "For the first time South Africa's premier public broadcaster will have exclusive rights to a major cricket event."

The announcement adds an interesting new chapter to a saga that has rumbled on for more than 18 months, particularly as the SABC has not broadcast domestic cricket for many years. When the first edition of the now defunct T20 Global League was initially pitched as the brainchild of former CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat last year, an initial stumbling block - and part of the reason for Lorgat's eventual downfall - were concerns over a TV deal. In September 2017, shortly before his departure, Lorgat suggested that SuperSport may be the only viable broadcast partner.

The inaugural season of the T20 league was then delayed as CSA was unable to secure a broadcast deal or title sponsor for the event despite protracted negotiations with SuperSport over several months. In July this year, CSA CEO Thabang Moroe announced that CSA had agreed an equity deal with SuperSport, giving the broadcaster a 49% stake in the T20 league, but the following month SuperSport pulled out of the deal, even while suggesting they might still be interested in broadcasting the event.

When the T20 Global League was conceptualised, SuperSport believed it already had the rights to all cricket played in South Africa. However, their existing deal excluded what CSA defined as "new business", and the board sought a broadcaster abroad, aiming for big names in India and the UAE. They have now found one much closer to home and more modest, but CSA's new deal with the SABC could also have a negative impact on their relationship with SuperSport. Their current deal is up for renegotiation next year, while CSA's agreement with the SABC is covered by an MoU that will run for the next three years.

The group chief executive officer of the SABC, Madoda Maxakwe, called the deal "mutually beneficial" to both CSA and SABC. While it will certainly take the event to a wide audience, it will not bring with it the sort of financial clout CSA would have been looking for in their dealings with SuperSport and the beleaguered private owners of the initial GLT20 - several of whom are in various stages of legal proceedings against CSA - as the SABC is widely known to be in severe financial strife.

Last month, the cash-strapped broadcaster was reportedly unable to broadcast matches played by the national soccer teams as it could not negotiate terms with the South African Football Association, which it is said to owe R50 million. It is as yet unclear what, if any, financial input SABC may have into the T20 Cricket League, meaning CSA could be left covering the costs itself, further depleting its own cash reserves. The joint statement released by CSA and the SABC said that this new deal will "assist the SABC to regain its credibility", but did not divulge financial details.

"The SABC treasures the good relationship that we have with CSA, which enables the two parties to enter into this groundbreaking partnership," Maxakwe said. "It is a perfect deal, as it fits into the SABC's business strategy of increasing audiences and revenue, delivering compelling and entertaining content and diversifying revenue streams. The deal is, therefore, one that is mutually beneficial both to the SABC and CSA."

The T20 Cricket League will be played in November and December and will be broadcast live on SABC 3, with radio commentary being provided by Radio 2000 and Umhlobo Wenene FM.

Further details of the T20 Cricket League, including hosting venues and fixtures, are expected to be announced at a media briefing with Moroe at CSA's headquarters in Johannesburg on Wednesday.