COVID-19 brakes on Mzansi Super League

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The top-tier of domestic T20 cricket in the country, South Africa’s Mzansi Super League (MSL), will not take place in 2020, with Cricket South Africa having announced the postponement of the season until next year.

Making its debut in the year 2018, this year was supposed to be the third edition of the flagship competition, but Cricket South Africa has been forced to postpone, citing “various national and international logistical reasons caused by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic” in a statement.

The 2021 MSL will take place in November and December of 2021, with CSA outlining plans for a smaller franchise-based T20 tournament to take place in or around March 2021, to facilitate South Africa-based cricketers the chance to prepare for next year’s T20 World Cup in India.

The MSL usually attracts star players from overseas, but CSA acknowledged that with the difficulties the overseas players are likely to face in getting into the country, the lack of star names could have a significant impact on international broadcast revenues.

South Africa’s coronavirus situation is relatively stable – the country is in stage one of a five-level lockdown, with fans not allowed into sporting venues – which CSA also cited in its explanation.

Interestingly, CSA claimed that the league’s “headline sponsor” was disappointed but understanding of the situation. The MSL did not have a headline sponsor in its first two editions, and none had so far been announced for 2020.

The Acting CSA Chief Executive Kugandrie Govender said, “It is unfortunate but unavoidable that we have had to take this decision but maintaining the high quality of cricket that we have seen in the first two editions of the MSL is non-negotiable for CSA. The fact that we would have to play in empty grounds was another consideration, not only financially but also for player morale and team spirit, which links to fan support.”

“The atmosphere and encouragement our fans have brought to first two editions have been significant and contributed incredibly to MSL’s success. We would not want to lose out on that or the opportunity to position the league as an important way to attract new fans to the game,” Govender added.

CSA is battling on several fronts at the moment. Govender took over from Jacques Faul last month, who himself was only Acting Chief Executive while a search was ongoing for a permanent replacement for Thabang Moroe, who was suspended in December amid allegations of misconduct.

The body’s President, Chris Nenzani, also stepped down in August after a seven-year tenure, amid repeated graft charges at the organization.

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