Johannesburg – Tonight saw the CGL announce their annual results: A year of mixed emotions and trying circumstances but with wins all round, despite the chaos brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The CGL Board, staff and coaches have topped the scoreboard, and this focused and innovative group can take pride in their unwavering devotion to the game of cricket, reaching set objectives, achieving superb results and addressing key learnings for the generations to come.

Undoubtedly the most challenging time for the Union was having to embark on a strategic rethink within a short space of time, undergoing a fast-paced implementation programme, unfortunately starting with  a section 189A process to ensure the Union’s short-term sustainability.

Transformation goals included ensuring equal opportunities for women and girls cricket, as well as ensuring a fair playing field for disabled cricketers, who have often overcome more than we can imagine. In May 2021, the Union formalised a Transformation Charter as a working document.

The resumption of all forms of cricket other than schools cricket was indeed much needed and came at a time when sport in South Africa was desperate to get underway.

A turbulent time for all valued members of the Pride. Off the back of the revised team structures, however, came the greatest highlight of the annum which was the successful navigation of the Union through an unprecedented pandemic, coupled with the heightened transformation requirement across all spheres. Below are some the key take outs from the CGL 2020/21 annual report

1. Quality winning teams and players:

The Imperial Lions won the Betway T20 Challenge and were crowned joint winners of the Momentum One Day Cup.

Our Pride performed as the ultimate team, however three players in particular stood out:

Sisanda Magala: The former Warriors player, entered into an Imperial Lions change room full of household names, performing from the beginning and thoroughly deserving the honour of being named the Betway T20 Challenge Cricketer of the Season at the CSA Awards as well as the Imperial Lions Player of the year.

Dominic Hendricks: He had outstanding performances and played with incredible consistency in both the 4-day Series and in 50 over cricket. A deserved call up to the South African Emerging team.

Ryan Rickelton: Is a player to watch, who has had a big impact on the team this season in all formats.

Over and above these three, the Union saw our captain Temba Bavuma selected to lead the Proteas’ white-ball team for the next two years, making him the first Black African player to captain South Africa’s national cricket team. He is the ultimate leader, all-round good guy and an inspiration to many more over and above the South African cricket-loving community.

Another key player was Imperial Lions Women’s player Ayabonga Khaka who continues to play for the Proteas Ladies Team as a result of her consistent performances. In addition, she was selected for the IPL Supernovas team. Kirstie Thomson was rewarded for her good performances during the Women’s Super League, hosted in Cape Town, and was selected to tour Bangladesh with the South African Emerging Squad.

CGL are extremely proud that two of our Senior Women Provincial Team members were selected for the Momentum Proteas: A first that women have been given national contracts and a step in the right direction for equality in the sport.

CGL Strikers not only won all their limited over matches for the past season but were the bedrock behind the Imperial Lions professional team when eleven Imperial Lions players were selected for various Proteas matches.

In April 2021, the Central Gauteng Blind Cricket team was crowned tournament winners after successfully defeating Northerns Blind Cricket, KZN Blind Cricket and Free State Blind Cricket in the provincial quadrangular series, all within a Johannesburg based bubble system. The series was part of the preparation for the SA National Blind Cricket tournament, which will be held in September 2021. The hard work, effort and excellence commitment by the team was noteworthy, admirable and appreciated.

Congratulations to our Coaching & Education Manager Dumile Skade for winning the 2021/21 CSA Coaching Manager of the year. Dumile curated a series of webinars, covering a range of topics such as talent identification, pipeline development and wicket keeping.

2. Nurturing pipeline cricket

It is our goal to foster a great cricket culture with a strong cohort of all players by increasing the number of previously disadvantaged cricket playing communities, affiliates, associations, clubs and schools.

We pride ourselves on our school cricket system that comprises of both independent and government schools. These schools play in a competitive league in the Gauteng region and produce the best players that have represented at South Africa U/19 level.

Premier A league has 12 teams, inclusive of two black clubs and three clubs of colour. 90% of clubs in the Premier A league conform to the CSA transformational targets, some of which include Marks Park, Big Bom Lenasia, Delfos Cricket Club, Soweto Pioneers and Kagiso Cricket Club.

A season highlight was Marks Park Cricket Club emerging as the ENZA Premier League winners; this was their first win in 25 years.

We also hosted the heavily contested Blackwidow T20 competition; the final was played at the Imperial Wanderers Stadium and won by the Old Edwardians Cricket Club after a hard-fought match.

Our girls and boys youth teams tournaments were unfortunately all cancelled due to Covid-19. Only Cubs Week was played, held under strict conditions in Stellenbosch. Our team’s performance was of standard compared to past performances, and we look forward to more growth for these players.

KFC Mini Cricket is instrumental in cricket development and each year thousands of boys and girls from across the province participate in this programme. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, KFC Mini Cricket was very limited this season, however in October the organisers and CSA hosted a series of virtual seminars, aimed at laying the foundation for when KFC Mini Cricket could resume.

The Hubs system is working well and is successfully promoting the game of cricket as far as possible in disadvantaged areas. It has become a breathing ground for young black talent in disadvantaged areas and these Hubs are a home for many cricketers who are coming from traditional cricket playing schools ultimately participating in the annual Sunfoil Night Series Tournament where Dobsonville walked away with the coveted trophy and Alexandra as runners up.

3. Growth of Fans

Our new fan growth strategy to aggressively market and promote the game to a more female and youthful fan base is paying dividend albeit slow due to the Covid19 restrictions, and we have taken advantage of digital technologies to engage and grow our valued fan base.

Due to stringent Covid-19 government regulations, no fans were allowed into the stadium for the entire season; however, most of the matches were televised and streamed live through various online social media platforms. Some of the games were televised to various international continents including, but not limited to, Canada, USA, West Indies, United Kingdom, Europe, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand.

We took advantage of various digital platforms, inclusive of live match streaming, hosting master classes, coaching forums and social media engagement in order to reach our fans and grow our following.

We also organised various online events including a twice weekly ‘Lockdown Chat’ series with Nono Pongolo, a South African first-class cricketer, who commands respect both on and off the field. Pongolo hosted numerous online chats with many of the Imperial Lions players, enabling fans and other players to interact with him.

4. CSI:

Our Covid-19 food relief efforts saw us partner with the Muslim Association of South Africa (MASA); Feed SA; the Veterans Cricket Association; The Angel Network and Ashraful Aid to provide food security for communities in dire need worth over R5million food hampers donated.

In response to the second SA pandemic as announced by the President of the Republic, we launched a Gender Based Violence (GBV) campaign aimed at raising the high levels of femicide and taking a stand against GBV in partnership with POWA. All 2020/21 Imperial Lions games were played under the theme #ENDFEMICIDENOW.

We worked with Blind Cricket to promote Blind Cricket month through a series of planned fan engagements and hosted a match on the 25th of November at the Imperial Wanderers Stadium to raise the awareness of blind cricketers. We worked closely with Blind SA and the Central Gauteng Lions Blind Cricket team to foster closer working relationships. In addition, we celebrated World Blind Day.

We were forced to reimagine our iconic 10th BetWay PinkDay without fans. We were determined not to let the anniversary slip by and focused our efforts on making sure that the PinkDay flag continued to fly, albeit in a different format, for our fans. To celebrate the ODI match which saw the Proteas play Pakistan ‘behind closed doors’; clubs and schools were challenged to come up with innovative and “out of-the-box” ideas on how to create breast cancer awareness. Some ideas that originated included pink stumps, beautifully designed playing kit, painted faces, pink garments, food markets and many other innovative community outreach initiatives, which helped raise awareness with funds donated to various locally based organisations. We’re delighted with our efforts of raising in excess of R450 000 for the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic hospital.

5. Maintaining our iconic stadium

The world came to a complete economic halt and so did sports, however in time professional sport could resume, but only if played in a strict bio-secure environment. Cricket South Africa was faced with the dilemma of future tours, after the England tour to South Africa, to be hosted in Cape Town and Paarl, was prematurely called off.

With international cricket resuming, CSA tasked CGL and Northern Titans to deliver a stadium specific bio-secure environment for the January 2021 Sri Lanka Tour of South Africa. We put in place numerous measures to ensure this, which were recognised when the CGL received accolades both from CSA and the Sri Lanka team management for the creation of the high-calibre of the bio-secure environment. On the strength of the success of the Sri Lankan series, the Pakistan tour to South Africa in April 2021 was once again hosted at both venues.

In line with our commitment to our environment, we partnered with SolarSaver to install a grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) system at the stadium. SolarSaver were responsible for the installation and are responsible for the ongoing maintenance costs of the solar panels, which is much appreciated. The cost to CGL is around 25% of the normal kilowatt charge. The solar panels are visible on the Unity Stand, Western Stand and Centenary Pavilion.

The next phase will be to establish opportunities to store energy and feed it back into the grid. With the introduction of solar energy the Imperial Wanderers Stadium has shown itself to be an industry leader in South African stadiums.

Over and above these improvements, the Imperial Wanderers Stadium added two additional practice strips on the square.

A key focus of CGL is to promote the Imperial Wanderers Stadium as the premium venue of choice for both cricket and also non-cricket events. We believe that the stadium should be used all year round and benefit more than just the cricket community. We continue to work with the City of Johannesburg around the legal requirements to re-zone the stadium to accommodate other activities. However, unfortunately due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many of the events scheduled during the latter part of the fiscal year had to be cancelled.

We continue to explore multiple revenue streams to ensure the sustainability of the Imperial Wanderers Stadium, marketing it as a multipurpose venue. A permanent Yoga studio has been established and the media center was converted into a co-working space, which was rented by a tenant offering classes to over 60 students. We have also converted several suites into corporate offices and retail shops.

CGL hosted various non-cricket events including Yoga Day, Conferences, the 94.7 Cycle Challenge and workshops. A highlight event was the successful Imperial Wanderers Stadium Thought Leadership event in partnership with Richfield.

6. Financial Sustainability

CGL improved its performance reducing loss to R1.002 million and reduction of cash outflow to R1.556 million

Central Gauteng Lions was fortunate to retain all partners through these difficult times, however, a sustainability and operational efficiency plan was required to be implemented, focussing on: (1) Rationalising cricket service offerings, (2) Redirecting financial and human resources to prioritised areas, (3) Employing the most competent of personnel along with enforcing financial and operational accountability, (4) Commercialising every possible area of the company and diversifying, digitising and expanding revenue streams, and (5) Cost containment through the implementation of a S189A process in October 2020 and updated financial policies and procedures, which will ultimately ensure the Company’s long-term sustainability and return to profitability.

7. Governance and Staff development

A successful AGM was held on 9 May 2020 and a new Board was appointed.

As a part of the Central Gauteng Lions’ drive to become an employer of choice, we are committed to developing our employees and, as such, not only develop quality cricket players but also quality cricket administrators.

CGL ensures that all our employees grow by exposing them to different environments that require out of the box thinking and advanced problem-solving skills. Further, some of our employees enrolled in courses through the CGL this year.

Another avenue we use is performance agreements where every employee has to identify an area of improvement or personal goal for the new season.

In addition, we have partnered with Richfield where staff can select a desired course and do the program. This is one of the many initiatives by the company to ensure growth and development of people.

The Central Gauteng Lions continued to foster its relationship with Wits University (WITS) and University of Johannesburg (UJ) in a bid to retain the best talent in Gauteng and to ensure that our cricketers further their education. The partnership included bursaries, sponsorship, mentorship and high-quality cricket coaching with the focus on enhancing both academic and on-field performance.

In the year under review, we also added Vaal University of Technology (VUT) in the MOU agreement as we look to expand our reach for talent in the Vaal area.

Young players like Lutho Siphamla, Joshua Richards and Levert Manje were selected to be part of this programme. Manje and Richards are studying at UJ and Siphamla will study at WITS.

The Covid-19 pandemic hiatus afforded us the opportunity to continue to hone our off-field skills by engaging in a series of online educational sessions, attended by our players as well as other invited franchise players and coaches along with our fans to join in such engagements. The Lockdown Coaches Forum enabled participants to hear from, and engage with, former Proteas Shaun Pollock and Paul Adams.

The Girls and Womens pipeline discussion gave Yolani Fourie, CGL’s Senior Provincial Women’s captain and Shaun Pretorius CGL Senior Women’s Coach a platform to share their experiences, whilst Ashley Kotzin, CEO of Forwardzone, spoke from the viewpoint of a sporting industry professional.

Our on-field success is only achieved with the support of a formidable off-field force ranging from ground staff to office staff, from the bottom to the top, a tremendous collective effort from all this past year.

A big thank you to all our stakeholders including but not limited to our sponsors, CSA, service providers, affiliates, associates, Unions, government, NGOs, civil society and fans that continue to be behind the Lions Cricket Family.

8. Looking ahead

In the year ahead we will continue to focus our efforts on ensuring we have the foundations set for a stronger future. In this regard, at a Board level CGL will continue to refine our Transformation Charter, which is imperative to our long-term sustainability.

Going forward, club cricket is going to play an increasingly vital role in our talent identification and pipeline for the upcoming seasons, with the new structure speaking directly to this strategy.

We endeavour to develop self-sustaining well-maintained cricket clubs in previously disadvantaged areas. We support coaching at clubs in the Premier League. We endeavour to ensure that the first team in any club in the premier league has a Level 3 coach in place.

With the addition of the Under 16 Girls’ Provincial team, who will be going to the national week at the end of the year, we continue to focus our efforts on bringing more girls cricket to schools in Gauteng. As such, we will be undertaking road-shows and clinics to create more awareness amongst girls across key areas.

Over and above that, we are planning an all-girls cricket festival where they will have the opportunity to showcase their skills and talents. We also have a dedicated women’s and girls’ cricket administrator who is a driving force for the programme. Over and above these initiatives, we have ensured that there is girls/women’s cricket representation throughout our cricket committees.

The split of the Central Gauteng Lions and North West into two first division teams does provide the opportunity for the next youngster to come into the system allowing players like Sisanda Magala, Dominic Hendricks, Ryan Rickelton and Malusi Siboto to fill the senior roles in the team.

CGL welcomes all the new signings across all spheres and will induct them in our Lions Cricket Family motto called ‘The Lions Way’.