Cricket Wellington mulling private ownership

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 03/07/2014
Firebirds
Getty Images

ON FIRE: Wellington Firebirds' Luke Woodcock (right) and Luke Ronchi celebrate winning the Ford Trophy Final against the Northern Knights in Mount Maunganui.

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Auckland and Northern Districts' distaste for private ownership hasn't stifled Wellington's appetite.

New Zealand Cricket's (NZC) mooted move to allow Major Associations (MAs) to sell a 49 per cent stake in their operation had looked a dead duck, when vocal opposition emerged.

But a meeting of the MAs, on June 11, has kept the idea afloat, with NZC to now develop a more detailed framework for any potential ownership. There had been confusion about what property was NZC's and what the MAs could offer an investor, but Cricket Wellington (CW) chief executive Peter Clinton said that situation was being clarified.

"By and large there was support from all the MAs to progress the whole matter to the next stage, which involves participation agreements," Clinton said.

"It's still live, very much so, but it's being managed in a very co-ordinated way by NZC. We supported it and we still support the idea that investment can be made into domestic first-class cricket.

"We haven't turned our minds to pursuing any investment opportunities ... but that's not to say in the short to medium term, once we get a clear indication from NZC about what's available, we may decide it's the right time to lead those discussions with whoever may be interested."

Twenty20 cricket is ripe for investment or franchisation and Canterbury Cricket made a bold move in that direction by christening their Twenty20 team the Kings and deciding to play in purple next summer, rather than the traditional red and black. That sickened some traditionalists, but not Clinton.

"They are distinguishing it almost entirely as an entertainment product I would suggest, rather than any sort of high performance cricket," he said.

"In order to do that and win this new market and increase sponsorship value, they've decided to give it its very own identity and I understand that. I'm not saying it's going to be successful, of course, we'll have to wait and see, but I certainly support the intent and the sense that something has to be done to change things.

"He [Canterbury Cricket chief executive Lee Germon] believes that T20 doesn't really have a tradition and is the one format available to do almost whatever you want with it.

"The other thing is it's got everyone talking and that's not a bad thing. If part of your strategy is trying to reignite intensity and discussion around domestic cricket, then [abandoning your colours] is a pretty good way to generate that."

Clinton said the Firebirds brand was a strong one and doubted it would change. Outfits could be tinkered with, though.

The team play T20 in black, but 50-over cricket in yellow tops and black strides. Clinton said the colours would remain, but the schemes could alter, and attempts were made last summer to play one-dayers in full yellow, with black trim on the shirts and trousers, but NZC knocked back the proposal.

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