Cricket: The great cricket sell-off

By Dylan Cleaver

Most far-reaching of report's recommendations is for major associations to sell up to a 49% stake in teams.

Photo / Michael Cunningham
Photo / Michael Cunningham

A confidential report to be tabled before the New Zealand Cricket board recommends a dramatic overhaul of the domestic game, including selling teams to private investors.

The 18 recommendations in the report, authored by general manager of domestic cricket David Cooper, are expected to be rubber stamped by NZC over any protestations from the six major associations (MAs). In one telling passage, Cooper bluntly writes that: "Cricket's position as the number one summer sport is under threat."

The most far-reaching of the recommendations is to enable MAs - Northern Districts, Auckland, Central Districts, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago - to sell up to a 49 per cent stake in their teams. It is a model not dissimilar to what the New Zealand Rugby Union has done with four of their five Super Rugby franchises.

Cooper acknowledged the existence of the report but was reluctant to shed more light on it.

"Yes, the report has been completed but I need to talk to key stakeholders before I comment further," he said. However, the report makes clear the motivations for the seismic shift in the delivery of domestic cricket.

"This review highlights a need to address domestic cricket in sports marketing terms as well as in terms of sports administration. It highlights the obvious need to enhance the product, the promotion, the pricing, the entertainment package and, indeed, all aspects of the marketing of domestic cricket."

There is an acknowledgment at NZC top table level that domestic cricket is failing at a commercial and high-performance level. It has become a no-go zone for spectators - few people even know the Ford Trophy one-day final is on this weekend in Mt Maunganui - and produces a dearth of international-ready players.

"The majority of MAs are under severe and ongoing financial pressure," the report states. "Their dependence on both NZC revenue, via the international game, and gaming funding is significant.

"The gap in the quality and the required level of professionalism between domestic and international cricket continues to need bridging. Further, the growing significance and scale of international T20 leagues will probably see New Zealand players coming under threat to leave international cricket."

The Herald revealed the plans for a domestic sell-off in November, 2011. The proposal was met enthusiastically by some, including Canterbury, who were understood to have secured an investor for a significant sum. Auckland Cricket, under the stewardship of CEO Andrew Eade and chairman Rex Smith, remained unconvinced.

Since then Eade has moved on to the Millennium Institute and his successor, Mark Cameron, has been included on Cooper's steering committee - a savvy political move by NZC who are desperate to inject life and capital into a dormant domestic scene.

A source told the Herald: "They [NZC] look at what the Big Bash and IPL have done for Australian and Indian cricket and then look at HRV Cup games being played in front of 900 people and think, 'What are we doing wrong here'?"

- NZ Herald

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