Runs dry up in the Cape

Nabeal Dien. Photo: Ian Landsberg

The ongoing water crisis is not only taking its toll on farmers, businesses and residents, but sport as well.

Cricket is the latest sporting code to be affected by the drought after Cape Town soccer and rugby fixtures were reduced during the winter months.

Club cricket has been hit particularly hard, with many leagues having to reduce their fixtures by more than 50% in some cases.

Western Province Cricket has been working with the City of Cape Town to look at ways in which water can be saved, resulting in a decision last week to reduce the number of games in all leagues, except for the Premier League, First Division A two-day league and the third division.

Western Province Cricket chief executive Nabeal Dien said clubs realised the water crises was “beyond anyone”.

“We already met with the City in June, signalling our intent that we would be willing to cut fixtures by 30% in order to alleviate some of the pressure. “I believe at this point we have done all we can,” he said.

Mr Dien said with the fixtures already having been cut severely, he would be reluctant to make any further reductions should the drought did not abate.

“We must find clever ways of coming up with the fixtures, and apply our minds. I have actually proposed that the cricket facilities budget be handed over to us, so that we can look after the fields and run courses for people to maintain them. I think we could actually save money that way.”

While some club cricketers have expressed dissatisfaction at the cuts, fearing that a drastically shortened season would impact badly on membership numbers, many clubs also understand why these measures had to be taken.

Chairperson of Montrose Cricket Club in Observatory, Razeen Allie, said it needed to be appreciated that Western Province cricket received funding from Cricket South Africa (CSA) for the two top leagues, which was why those fixtures had not been reduced.

“CSA views all the lower leagues as recreational cricket. We do understand though that when fixtures are cut there is a possibility that guys will lose interest, or they will find other things to do on weekends,” Mr Allie said.

“If a small club loses even four or five players it has a massive impact on the club, so it’s a tough one. Then again, Western Province Cricket is also under pressure from CSA as well as the council.”

He said if the water crisis continued, there was a “very real threat” to the sustainability of smaller clubs. “You’ve got your township clubs who use cricket as a way of getting kids off the street. Now you’ve got only half the games, so it’s a worry. But I think we are all aware of the drought, so we have accepted what is happening.

“My only suggestion would be that before any other cuts are made, Western Province Cricket meets with all the clubs to plot the way forward.”

Ashraf Burns, president of the Green Point-based United Cricket Club, believes “sanity prevailed” in respect of the reduced fixtures.

“We always knew there could be a problem, so I think the cuts are fair,” he said.

Mr Dien said Western Province Cricket understood the impact the drought could have on township clubs, and was looking at ways to sustain them.

“We could push their games to clubs that do have good facilities. Another way to sustain township cricket is to create festivals there. We have identified areas where cricket has an big impact on the youth, so we can hold these festivals on a Saturday and Sunday when no one else is using these facilities. We will find innovative ways of doing things there.”

He said looking forward, he hoped to include a number of well points in the next budget.

“I will be looking to establish these at between five and 10 fields to begin with, and then include more fields in the next budget.”