Cricket: Northern Districts ready for sell-off

By Dylan Cleaver

The six major associations would be encouraged to sell up to 50 per cent of their ownership to outside investors. Photo / Thinkstock
The six major associations would be encouraged to sell up to 50 per cent of their ownership to outside investors. Photo / Thinkstock

Northern Districts are ready to "flick the switch" on privatisation, they are just waiting for the thumbs-up from New Zealand Cricket.

ND board member Greg Barclay, who has been on a committee looking at ways to implement and structure the privatisation of NZC's six major associations, said financial sustainability was the biggest issue facing the domestic game.

It was revealed in the Weekend Herald that planning was well-advanced for a sell-off of domestic cricket. The six major associations - ND, Auckland, Central Districts, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago - would be encouraged to sell up to 50 per cent of their ownership to outside investors.

A new company under the working title of NZ Premier League, wholly owned by NZC, would be set up to run the three domestic competitions for men.

Barclay said it was imperative that the opportunity to move in a new direction was not wasted.

"This needs to happen sooner, rather than later," he said. "The single biggest issue surrounding our game is the financial sustainability of the major associations. We're living close to a hand-to-mouth type of existence every year and it's not a situation that can continue.

"We need to look at ways to become sustainable and this is that opportunity. We're largely ready to go in terms of the structures."

Barclay can understand some of the scepticism around the value of major associations, acknowledging there was a "disconnect" between some of the numbers being bandied around and the lack of television coverage and spectators at domestic cricket.

The value is more based around the commercial potential of cricket, potential that is being realised on the subcontinent with the advent of the franchise-based Indian Premier League.

Part of that potential is around global alliances. ND has been in discussions for two years with various parties, including Queensland Cricket, about establishing formal partnerships.

Barclay said forging links with Australian franchises would have positive spin-offs. "There are opportunities for resource sharing in terms of players and coaches and we're trying to replicate that at an organisational level as well."

There was an opportunity to share intellectual property, sponsors and develop other commercial links.

Barclay said it had become obvious that while grassroots and professional cricket were still dependent on each other, there was a need for separate governance.

"The two don't gel any more," he said. "The imperatives that impact the grassroots game are different from the imperatives that impact the professional game and decision-making is compromised when we're trying to serve both."

A move to a part-private franchise competition would not lessen the importance of grassroots and development cricket, it would just separate the governance of it from the high-performance environment.

The major associations were faced with two choices, Barclay believed. They could continue as costly "branch offices of NZC", or look to establish themselves as commercial entities in their own right.

"If we can't get a professional franchise structure to work, then we need to look at something else to enhance what we're providing to stakeholders."

- NZ Herald

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