ICC shifts Men's Under 19 World Cup from Sri Lanka to South Africa

Fans rejoice ahead of the Women's T20 World Cup opener between South Africa and Sri Lanka ICC via Getty Images

The ICC Board on Tuesday decided to shift the 2024 men's Under-19 World Cup from Sri Lanka to South Africa. The move, a unanimous decision by the board, was taken as a consequence of the ICC recently provisionally suspending the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) due to extensive government interference in the board's administration.

The development will have no immediate implication on the daily running of cricket. ESPNcricinfo has learned that the ICC Board agreed that cricket at all levels, including any bilateral and domestic series and tournaments, will not be disrupted by the suspension. As for the ICC annual funding, that would be controlled until the suspension is lifted.

In a media release, the ICC confirmed moving the tournament to South Africa having heard the SLC. "After hearing representation from SLC, the ICC Board decided that Sri Lanka can continue to compete internationally both in bilateral cricket and ICC events after being suspended recently for breaching its obligations as a Member in particular the requirement to manage its affairs autonomously and without government interference."

Shammi Silva, SLC president, had recently warned that the biennial tournament, scheduled in January 2024 was in danger of being moved out of the country unless the ICC was satisfied that Sri Lanla government was not meddling in board's working, which goes against the ICC constitution. The SLC and the country's sports minister Roshan Ranasinghe have been in conflict over the past year, with Ranasinghe making accusations of corruption and mismanagement in the cricket board, while Silva and SLC accuse him of meddling with cricket.

Silva also notified the ICC in November 2022 of government interference which forced the ICC Board to ask its deputy chairman Imran Khawaja to travel to Sri Lanka to establish the facts.

Four cities shortlisted

South Africa has been a favourite for hosting U-19 World Cup events recently. The country hosted the inaugural edition of the Women's U-19 World Cup in 2023 and the men's U-19 World Cup in 2020 too.

The 16-team tournament, originally scheduled for January 13 - February 4 in Sri Lanka, is likely to be played close to the same window. The venues for the 2024 edition are likely to be Benoni, Potchefstroom, Kimberley, and Bloemfontein. It is understood that South Africa and the UAE were among the shortlist of venues the ICC had pencilled in as contingencies in case it had to be moved out of Sri Lanka. The UAE, though, had to be ruled out with the ILT20 clashing with the World Cup.

The top 11 Full Member sides from the 2022 edition have qualified directly, and five teams - Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Scotland, and USA - have earned their spots through regional qualification events. The 2024 edition will also be played in a fresh format - with the 'Super Sixes' a new segment during the second stage of the event.

India, with five titles, are the most successful team in the competition's history, followed by Australia with three. Pakistan have won twice and each of England, Bangladesh, South Africa, and West Indies have lifted the crown once. For fans in South Africa, the tournament now clashes with the SA20 franchise competition that runs from January 10 to February 10.