Pay-television network SuperSport has pulled out of their equity partnership with Cricket South Africa for a new 20-over league, leaving the organisation without an outside shareholder for the tournament. In a statement released on Tuesday night, SuperSport claimed the discussions for an agreement terminated on July 23, more than four weeks before their announcement, but that they remain interested in broadcasting the event.
SuperSport was due to own a 49% share in the yet-to-be-named competition, and their withdrawal has left CSA with carrying all the costs of a flagship 20-over tournament themselves.
“We have used our best endeavours to reach consensus with CSA around that shareholding model, but this has unfortunately not happened,” Gideon Khobane, SuperSport’s CEO said. “The discussions on the in-principle shareholding agreement terminated on 23 July 2018. We have therefore decided to discontinue negotiations about shareholding. We are, however, engaged in constructive discussions with CSA regarding the broadcast of the event.”
Khobane provided no reasons for why an agreement with CSA could not be reached, nor any explanation for CSA CEO Thabang Moroe claiming to have “reached finality in terms of the equity deal with SuperSport,” on July 17. Since then, it has emerged that CSA and SuperSport had not come to any agreement and proposed legal action by at least four of the eight previous team owners, casting a shadow over the event.
One of the owners, Hiren Bhanu of the Pretoria Mavericks, is seeking an interdict to stop any 20-over league being played in South Africa because the owners have reserved their rights to teams. CSA has not recognised this right, and remains adamant that if the league takes place this year, it will not include any private ownership. However, CSA will offer the owners the first right of refusal if they decide to put teams on sale in the future.
CSA has not made any public comment on the issue since July 31, when Moroe confirmed the new tournament would be made up of six teams instead of eight. Then Moroe said planning for the league was continuing but in the three weeks since, he, along with three other board members, have met with the owners of the GLT20 franchises and written to them clarifying that private ownership will not be considered for the first edition or two of the league.
At the same time, South Africa’s sports minister Tokozile Xasa has been asked to consider issuing a moratorium on CSA, by the deputy shadow minister of sport Darren Bergman, preventing it from making any announcements relating to a 20-over league until it has appeared before the parliamentary portfolio committee. CSA was due in front of the committee on Tuesday but asked for an extension as it prepares for next month’s AGM. Xasa has yet to announce a decision.