South African domestic cricket is set to undergo a major overhaul with the introduction of a two-division league structure that will see nine more teams being added to the current six in the franchise system.
This follows a decision by the Members' Council of Cricket South Africa to accept the recommendations of the David Richardson Task Team to restructure the domestic game.
According to CSA, the South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) has been consulted regarding the process, which started in February 2020.
The resolution to accept and approve Richardson Committee's recommendation to restructure the domestic competition is the culmination of a process over many years. It heralds a new era for CSA and its affiliates," said Acting CSA Members' Council President Rihan Richards.
"The support that the resolution received indicates the buy-in from all the stakeholders and a commitment to strengthening South African cricket. We really hope that the system will improve not only access and opportunity at all levels but will contribute to a sustainable CSA and the game, Richards added.
The decision comes at a time when CSA is embattled both financially due to fans not being allowed at cricket matches due to COVID-19 pandemic and from an administrative viewpoint, as almost all board members and senior officials either left or were dismissed in the past year.
Sponsors have also withdrawn amid an impasse with government which led to the Sports Minister intervening to resolve the crisis, with an interim board now in place.
Under the new structure, the current six-team franchise cricket make-up will be dissolved and replaced by a 15-team first-class system, although CSA has not yet specified a date for the change.
The format will see the teams split 8-7 into a Division 1 and Division 2 arrangement with automatic promotion and relegation to be implemented.
This automatic promotion and relegation system aims to provide healthy tension in the system which will enhance a high performance environment, while providing opportunity for those Division 2 Members, who want to be part of a competitive first division, the CSA said.
The 8-7 divisional split will be determined by a 'bid process' in which each member will be evaluated based on its performance, both current and historical, against defined evaluation criteria, as well as its Strategic Plan for running and sustaining a professional team …, CSA said.
This will include an improved contract system, an increase in the number and quality of opportunities as well as an improvement of leadership talent within CSA's coaching structures.
The proposed competition structure will offer more opportunities to players at the highest first-class domestic level, essentially widening the talent pool for the national selectors, the CSA said.