Sahara Computers has injected 25 million Rand into South African cricket as sponsorship in exchange for the naming rights for three stadiums. The money will go towards the development of local cricket in three provincial cricket unions.
The oldest cricket stadium in South Africa, at Port Elizabeth, will be known as Sahara Oval St Georges, the Newlands ground will be renamed Sahara Park Newlands, and Kingsmead becomes Sahara Stadium Kingsmead.
Graeme Smith was in favour of the deal, and did not mind the name change. "The players realise how important money is to the game," said Smith. "At the same time tradition is important and it is something I have been working hard on as far as the national side is concerned.
"Cricketers who were playing 20 years ago could not have dreamed that they would be playing 20 overs-a-side cricket today and, if the future of Newlands is at stake in 20 years' time, nobody is going to ask questions about where the money comes from."
Smith was supported by Raymond Uren, the president of Eastern Province Cricket Board, who welcomed the arrangement. "The Eastern Province Cricket Board will utilise the funds from this investment to upgrade existing facilities and to initiate further training programmes," Uren said. "We believe this agreement will certainly provide an avenue for the further development of players, facilities and the sport in general."
Cassim Dockrat, the chief executive of Sahara Stadium Kingsmead, felt the name change would cause problems for traditionalists, "But the new name will add a new dimension to the stadium. We envisage a healthy relationship for the good of cricket."
Sahara Computers has no financial links with Sahara Group, which sponsors the Indian team.