Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Auckland on edge over privatisation

Mark Cameron.
Mark Cameron.

Auckland Cricket remain opposed to plans to fast-track a revamp of the domestic game, believing measured discussions would be more beneficial rather than rushing into change, such as privatisation.

Last month a New Zealand Cricket-generated report recommended a drastic overhaul, including the option to sell up to 49 per cent of franchises to private investors. Feedback on the proposed changes needs to be submitted by Thursday.

A number of major associations and stakeholders like the New Zealand Cricket Players Association have welcomed the prospect for change, including the privatisation proposal. Auckland, however, are a lot more cautious.

"We welcome the debate and agree domestic cricket needs a review," Auckland Cricket chief executive Mark Cameron said. "Clearly the product and brand are not achieving their goals but no one in the business world would set up a company, get investors in and only then decide what product they're going to sell.

"Which of our domestic competitions are development tools for the Black Caps and which are stand-alone commercial activities? When do we want to schedule them? What's the look and feel for the television and live audience? Do we want them under lights? What is each team worth?

"We haven't answered those critical questions. That'll probably take a year or two. Only after we've positioned our product should we be taking it to investors rather than the other way around."

Cameron said one concern lies with the potential for a fractured investment situation where only half the teams get private investment. The consequence might alter the balance of the competition leaving cricket with a model similar to football's ASB Premiership, where only Auckland City or Waitakere United have won since its inception in 2004. Another alternative is the National Basketball League where teams float in and out depending on whether they can find a financial backer.

"We're looking for a miracle answer from a third party," Cameron said. "I don't believe that's going to happen until we get our positioning right. Name me a purely domestic sport which succeeds financially? There aren't many. We need an international flavour added, like Super Rugby. Australia's Big Bash is not looking to sell off franchises and neither is The Blast in English cricket. They're still asking, 'why give benefits to a third party?'

"Also, what's the first thing a private investor's going to do? They'll poach that player from CD and this player from Otago. Before you know it, an Auckland City-Waitakere United situation develops."

Auckland are stronger financially than most major associations due to the insurance provided by the Eden Park Trust Act. The act guarantees them, and fellow beneficiary Auckland Rugby, revenue from events at the venue. Not all associations are as fortunate.

Auckland would like to see the Plunket Shield and Ford Trophy remain as development tools and still see the drive for commercial revenue coming from the T20 competition.

"We don't want to divest ourselves of the responsibility like the West Indies did with the ill-fated Allen Stanford league," Cameron said. "Cricket should be owned by cricket people."

- Herald on Sunday

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