Northern Districts chief not banking on windfall

A trip to the Champions League and a massive pay-day looms as the ultimate way for the financial strain to be lifted from Northern Districts Cricket.

But chief executive Peter Roach isn't getting too excited about the big bucks yet.

The Knights have qualified second for the domestic Twenty20 finals weekend in Hamilton, where they will face the Canterbury Wizards in Friday night's preliminary final at Seddon Park, before the Otago Volts play the winner at the same venue on Saturday night.

ND have traditionally struggled to make the playoffs in the short version game, but now, having got there, they have the added bonus of home advantage as New Zealand Cricket test the finals weekend concept.

With ND under pressure to balance the books - which has included not entering an under-17 team at the national tournament - winning the domestic Twenty20 competition and giving themselves a shot at the US$2.5 million (NZ$3m) winner's prizemoney at the Champions League is a tantalising prospect.

While Roach said it was definitely an "attractive proposition" and a "revenue earning opportunity", he conceded they were still a long way from getting there.

"Obviously we need to win two games and then there's a significant qualifying tournament that the New Zealand team has to historically fight through," he said.

"So we're a long way from thinking about the big money."

There's no prizemoney for any of New Zealand's domestic competitions, but at the Champions League, played in September-October in India or South Africa, even just making the main draw is worth US$200,000.

Under New Zealand Cricket's shared financial model there is a slice of the pie for all six associations, but the team that goes receives double what the others do.

Roach feels ND have been very diligent in managing their budget through the competition, as he believed other teams would have spent five to 10 times more on overseas players.

ND's option of signing fringe Big Bash League players from Australia has paid dividends, with Roach's former connections in Australia proving useful.

"I've had a bit of a leg-up there in knowing how they [the franchises] operate and the key people involved," he said.

"We've had to take a different approach this year.

"We've done pretty good research on each of the ones we've had coming over, so we've been confident that they will stick to the team plans, play a really good part on and off the field for our team and obviously bring certain skills that we were a little bit deficient in at the time.

"There's no great science to it. We've certainly had some names that we haven't been able to get as well."

The Knights probably won't name their team until tomorrow as they try to nail down another import or two, as well as wait for confirmation from NZC as to whether their Black Caps will be available to play, given the ODI series against India starts in Napier on Friday.

Roach said it was becoming harder to get players released from the BBL with it now in full swing, however that is coach James Pamment's preference rather than go after any of the West Indies players, who complete their tour of New Zealand with the second Twenty20 in Wellington tonight.

Meanwhile, if Seddon Park puts on a good show, it will get a "big tick" as a future host if the finals weekend concept continues, according to New Zealand Cricket's general manager of domestic cricket, David Cooper.

Last year the six major associations made the decision to move the majority of games to night fixtures to make the most of television viewer number opportunities, so having finals games played in those Friday/Saturday night time slots was a natural continuation of that.

"Obviously it meant that some associations didn't have a venue that could be available," Cooper said.

"And of the four major associations that had venues that could hold night games, realistically the only one that was practical in this window when we did the scheduling was Seddon Park."

The boutique ground was also a factor, with NZC not so keen to see the likes of big stadiums Eden Park and Westpac Stadium host a potentially neutral final.

The six associations will review the finals weekend concept at the end of the season.

"Obviously if Hamilton turn out in force on Friday night and support the Knights and the preliminary final, and regardless of the outcome of that game, turn up on Saturday to watch the final, it would put a big tick against Seddon Park as an ideal venue and underline it as a preferred venue for finals of domestic cricket, but there's other factors that'll weigh into that of course," Cooper said.

Profits from the weekend will go into NZC's professional pool, which is used to pay the costs of running the domestic competitions.

Waikato Times