Friday, 1 August 2008

Want to start your own Champions League?

Have a few million dollars lying around? Love cricket? Then why not start your own Twenty20 Champions League? Or just create your own competition with big prize money for the winner. You can watch it, as the owner, whilst being fanned by topless women with palm leaves (that's what I would do anyway...)

This week we have had the revelation of 2 separate Champions Leagues cashing in on the popularity of the newest form of the game, to go with a number of new national Twenty20 competitions and the Sanford competitions.

They wont all survive.

I have said on this blog previously that I love lots of cricket being played, and compared the situation to football where there is almost a game everyday in the UK and no one tires of it. But the difference between the current Twenty20 situation and that of football is that all the cricket competitions are largely meaningless and the result of international cricket board fights. When football is on every night, the competitions are well recognised, prestigious tournaments. Tournaments created out of thin air tend to fail, or strong teams don't show up (world club championship, various intercontinental cups and friendlies, for example).

We have known about the BCCI backed Champions League for some time. This year it will involve 2 IPL teams, 2 teams from Australia, 2 from South Africa, 2 from Pakiston and originally 2 from England. There are plans to expand with teams from more countries. But because some Kent players played in the ICL, the BCCI is not allowing them to play. It's not surprising really, the BCCI are on a crusade to control the game. You can make any argument you like about how they are protecting their financial investment - well, why not just ban the players, why the whole team? Some of the blame should also lie with the ECB, who obviously haven't given the best information to their county players and clubs.

So the ECB did what they had to do and set up their own Champions League. The England and Wales Cricket Board announced this week that it has secured a £750m deal over 10 years for a rival Twenty20 Champions League, in which of course its teams will qualify along with teams from every other senior test playing country.

The ECB's event is backed by Middle Eastern investors and will take place in Dubai or Sharjah in October. The ECB has also recently been involved in setting up the Stanford Super Series series involving England, an All Star team sponsored by Texas billionaire Sir Allen Stanford, Caribbean Twenty20 champions Trinidad & Tobago and bizarrely, Middlesex.

Let's have a look at what is happening over the next year in Twenty20 - it's a packed schedule!

Champions League
29 September to 8 October
Venue: Jaipur, New Delhi, Mohali
Teams: 2 from Australia, England, India, Pakistan, South Africa
Cash: Approx £2.5m per team

ECB Champions League
Early October
Venue: Dubai or Sharjah, UAE
Teams: 2 from the IPL, South Africa, Australia and Middlesex and Kent
Cash: £750m over 10 years

India Cricket League Invitation Cup
Sep / Oct
Venue: India
Teams: Eight franchises
Cash: Unknown

Stanford Super Series
25-28 October
Venue: Antigua
Teams: England, Stanford Super Stars, Trinidad and Tobago, Middlesex
Cash: £50,000 to Trinidad and Tobago, Middlesex, plus £100,000 for winner of their match

Stanford Super Series Winner-takes-all
1 November
Venue: Antigua
Teams: Stanford Super Stars v England
Cash: £10m

ICL Twenty20 Indian Championship
Nov / Dec
Venue: India
Teams: Eight franchises
Cash: Unknown

Indian Premier League
10 April- 29 May 2009
Venue: India-wide
Teams: Eight franchises
Cash: £500m over 10 years

ICC World Twenty20 Championship
June, 2009
Venue: Various venues across England
Teams: Nine Test playing teams (Zimbabwe excluded) plus three qualifiers
Cash: £1m (£300,000 to the winners)

My prediction is that although the burgeoning middle class of India love their cricket and are largely funding these new competitions, the IPL and ICL will not both survive. The World Twenty20 Championship will survive but I can't see how two Champions Leagues can. Indeed, I can't say I care much about either. At least this year, international Australian players will miss out on the BCCI comp, and Indian players will miss the ECB one. And do I care about cheering for Victoria and WA against created franchises from India, for which one will include Shane Warne (not playing for his native Victoria)?

This will not last. Think about other sports where capitalism has gone crazy. Super League and the ARL eventually merged in Australia to form the National Rubgy League; the Grand Slam Cup was merged with the ATP World Championship to form the Tennis Masters Cup; there are countless examples. Sanford may have changed cricket in England, perhaps the world, forever but even when Kerry Packer did something similar, eventually it sorted itself out. The good thing for Australia is that because we're good, we get invited to all competitions striving for respectability!

I just hope this doesn't take away from Test cricket. I view it like this: Test cricket is like the very hard working and highly intelligent academic working away on his research. Truly the smartest and best people go down this route, changing the world with little recognition. 50 over cricket is like the fast talking business graduate - a dime a dozen, self important but with some skills and paid well. You do need them from time to time. Twenty20 is the cat walk - very high earning, good looking with a skill set but often superficial. I love Twenty20 (as I love good-looking models) but I have a deep respect for academics. Test matches are still the pinacle. I hope that the money spinning from the short game channels into Tests.

It may be some time till we all work out which Twenty20 competitions are important and which are flash-in-the-pan. All we know now is that the cricketers will get richer.

Read more about this in The Independent



Nick Scott said...

I wonder will all the money that Victoria stands to win in these Champions Leagues go to Cricket Australia and be dispersed among all the states, or will we start to see one or two "power states" rich in cash totally dominating other states with the ability to buy all the big stars?

My guess is probably not.

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