CSA announced their summer fixture list this week and there will be no test between Christmas and New Year, traditionally known as the “Boxing Day Test” starting on December 26. Since readmission in 1992, South Africa have always played a Boxing Day test, except on the five occasions that they were touring Australia.
The 2012 Boxing Day Test has been replaced by a T20 international against New Zealand in Port Elizabeth, leading to an outcry amongst cricket fans in South Africa.
“We’ve clearly noted the concerns and it was heartwarming to see such a passion for Test cricket being expressed. It shows that there is still a great following for Test cricket and that’s something we must not just take for granted. We made a mistake in not explaining the reasons for the move better,” CSA acting chief executive Jacques Faul told Reuters in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Faul said the absence of a Boxing Day Test in 2012 was a one-off.
“We’re going to have to take Test cricket more seriously and I can see the Boxing Day Test definitely being played again soon,” he said.
“The reasons for the move were several. Obviously crowds have been disappointing, but it’s not just about numbers. Our playing record then is poor, plus the players have not been at home for Christmas for a long time and it’s important to keep them fresh and motivated.”
South Africa have lost their last four home Boxing Day Tests – against Sri Lanka, India, England and Australia.
Faul admitted that the host broadcasters, SuperSport, had also expressed concerns over having just one day of live cricket during the prime period between Christmas and New Year.
“It’s a period of year when content is very important for the broadcasters and they did raise concerns,” Faul said.
The acting CEO was, however, delighted to announce a massive new sponsorship deal for CSA, with financial services group Momentum signing a six-year deal that covers all 50-over cricket – both one-day internationals and domestically.
The deal is believed to have netted CSA in the region of R200 million [$124.2 million] and is a huge vote of confidence in an organisation that has spent the last two years fighting a scandal over irregular bonuses paid to chief executive Gerald Majola and other allegations of bad corporate governance.
Majola has been suspended and is currently involved in a disciplinary hearing and could face criminal charges as well.
“It is a sign of confidence that we’ve made progress. Six years is a very long time and there’s no denying there were concerns over the bonus saga and Momentum obviously had their good name to consider,” Faull said.
Nicolaas Kruger, the CEO of MMI Holdings, Momentum’s parent company, said they were confident the bonus scandal was a thing of the past.
“In terms of CSA’s corporate governance, we are very comfortable with the significant progress that has been made with the recommendations of the Nicholson Inquiry being implemented and sports minister Fikile Mbalula getting involved to get the right governance structures in place,” Kruger said.
“But the deal represents a great business opportunity for us to expand our exposure. Cricket has a growing and diverse fan base of over 10 million South Africans and the benefits far outweigh the potential risks.”
The deal includes contractual assurances that CSA will complete the restructuring recommended by Judge Chris Nicholson, who was appointed by Mbalula late last year.