Describing it as a “people’s franchise”, Port Elizabeth’s new T20 Global League franchise owner Ajay Sethi unveiled his plan yesterday to galvanise fan support while also nurturing cricket development from grassroots to university level. And to ensure the cricket-loving public can fully identify with its T20 squad, he also wants the people of the city to help come up with a name for his new team.
The T20 Global League – along with big rugby – is forecast to bring in a R1-billion-plus investment to the city over 10 years.
Sethi, 55, was introduced to the media at a briefing held at a beachfront hotel yesterday and stressed the importance of Nelson Mandela Bay residents identifying with the team.
“It’s my great pleasure that I am here not as a businessman but as a very proud owner and supporter of our Port Elizabeth franchise,” the Channel 2 Group chairman said.
“This franchise does not only belong to my group and my family, but also to the people of Port Elizabeth. “This will be a people’s franchise. “We want people to be involved in creating a name and it must have something to do with being the people’s franchise.
“We will be approaching radio [this] morning and launching a campaign to name the franchise.
“We have a short time because we need to unveil the logo shortly.”
The deadline for each of the eight franchises to reveal its name is July 9.
The next important date will be August 19, when the draft or auction takes place and owners bid for their preferred players. A coach must also be named for each team. Sethi, who was named as Port Elizabeth’s franchise owner in London last week, said he had since been inundated with phone calls from interested cricket parties.
“When the news went global last week, I got calls from all over the world,” he said.
“So many people are excited about this news.”
His group would establish a full-time office in Port Elizabeth not only to run the T20 Global League, but also to nurture the sport at grassroots level.
“We will set up a local team here and we will have an international management strategy team to help the local team, and EP Cricket will be playing a key role,” Sethi said. “They have the experience and we need their guidance to make this successful.
“We are very keen to bring cricket to villages, rural areas, schools, townships and to the university.
“I heard the other day that there are 25 000 students at the university here.
“We want to get involved with the students and youth.
“We will have a round-the year programme to grow cricket. It’s not about coming here to play and then going again.
“We will have a fully-fledged office set up in PE and our team will work 12 months a year.
“We will do charity work and give kids scholarships.”
Cricket SA chief executive Haroon Lorgat, who was also at the briefing yesterday, has known the Dubai-based media mogul for 10 years and says Sethi is an ideal fit for Port Elizabeth.
“He has interests in India and in the UAE, of course, he operates in Africa and is a Kenyan and a son of the African soil,” he said.
“So it was not difficult for him to make a decision to invest in our tournament and the city.
“He is starting to fall in love with the city and that’s no surprise for us who know the city,” Lorgat, who was born in Port Elizabeth, said.
City manager Johann Mettler said, separately, they had run the numbers for the T20 Global League alongside their calculations for bringing big rugby to the city, and it promised to be a very lucrative investment.
“The kind of investment that we would get is in the hundreds of millions of rands,” he said.
“Over the next 10 years, it could easily reach more than a billion rands.”
From a tourism point of view, the hospitality industry should be one of the biggest winners.
“This event will bring spectators from all over the world,” Mettler said.
“They will need accommodation, so our hotels and B&Bs will make money.
“They will need transport, and will make use of taxis, Ubers and car rental companies.
“They will need to eat, so restaurants will be busy. And, on top of that, retail outlets will see more business.”
He said the actual sports income and investment around the new cricket club and facilities at St George’s Park also promised to bring in a pretty penny.
“The new team will see players from all over the country and world come to live and play in the city,” he said.
“The new team will need management structures and facilities to operate from.
“Upgrades in the region of R40-million to St George’s Park should see local construction companies benefit – and the upgrades will also see us bidding for more day-night games and increase our chances of landing international test matches.”
Mayoral committee member Andrew Whitfield said the coming cricket tournament would make the city a valued contributor to the national sports tourism strategy.
“Sports tourism has been identified as one of the crucial economic drivers in the city and nationally,” he said.
“With the national strategy looking to increase the income of sports tourism from R100-billion to R155-billion by the year 2020, I think this new cricket event fits in great with that plan.”
South African cricket could also play a big role in breaking into the Indian tourism market, as South African broadcasting times coincided with the Indian time zones.
“India is one of the world’s biggest cricketing nations, and will be watching this tournament eagerly,” Whitfield said.
“This gives us a unique opportunity to punt our country as a tourist destination to a different market.”