Franchise cricket – a step in the right direction

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Ron Gaunt/SPORTZPICS/SLPL

Sri Lanka Cricket needs to be commended for the excellent work they have done to resume a franchise-based tournament. 

if all goes well, we should have this city-based competition by the end of the month or at the latest, October. The main reason why Sri Lanka has lagged behind other nations when it comes to T20I cricket is because we do not have a strong T20 domestic competition. 

Read More : IPG Dubai buys LPL rights

Thanks to the BPL and CPL both Bangladesh and the West Indies have made giant strides in recent times in international cricket while India have taken their game to a new level with the highly successful IPL. What these franchise-based tournaments have done is to provide local players opportunities – especially the young ones – to compete with international stars. That prepares them well for the challenges of international cricket. 

It has been said time and again that our domestic cricket needs to be overhauled and now at least we are making a start with T20 cricket thanks to the Lanka Premier League. 

A fortnight ago SLC received expressions of interest from a couple of parties to be involved with the LPL tournament and Dubai based Innovative Production Group (IPG) is set to secure the deal. 

There is very little that SLC has got to do with the running of the event which basically has been outsourced to IPG, who will own the franchises, marketing and television rights of the event.  The board is set to earn a sum of US$ 1.9 million each in the first two years and from then onwards there is a ten percent increase.  The five-year deal with IPG is worth US$ 11 million. After the logistical expenses, SLC is sure to earn a net profit of US$ 5 million, which is a godsend in these difficult times due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic when we have had several cricket series indefinitely postponed. 

The event, when it happens, will be a shot in the arm as well for all those who are related to cricket from the local pineapple sellers to curators as they have started to feel the pinch with no cricket being played for six months now. 

While outsourcing events such as these takes the burden off SLC, there are traps that the board needs to avoid.  In working with third parties something that needs to be done is to examine their audited bank accounts and then to get a bank guarantee to ensure there is no default of payment.  

SLC has suffered gigantic financial losses for engaging with blacklisted companies such as Nimbus, who defaulted payment in 2009 to the tune of millions of US$. Thankfully, IPG has a good track record having also worked with SLC on successfully conducting the Nidahas Trophy in 2018. But in any case, a bank guarantee is a must. 

SLC did have a franchise-based tournament called the SLPL in 2012, but the event was a spectacular failure. 

The main reason was that the event was not marketed properly, and it failed to grab the attention of fans with most games being played in empty stadia. The timing of the event was horrible as well as most games were affected by rain and the final was a farce where several rain delays saw the game ending well past 12 midnight. These are lessons that SLC needs to learn. 

Another issue that the board needs to be vigilant about is the individuals who own these franchises. Sri Lankan cricket is fighting a major battle with corruptors trying to get hold of not only players and coaches but even curators. 

A thorough background check needs to be done on team owners to ensure that unscrupulous elements do not get anywhere closer to those who are engaged in the event. ICC Anti-Corruption boss and former Scotland Yard lead detective Alex Marshall has issued several warnings on how individuals could use franchise-based tournaments to corrupt the sport. Marshall and his team have done an excellent job in identifying these individuals in a bid to clean up the game and their vigilance is crucial to keep our beloved sport clean.

Another serious issue affecting franchise cricket is owners defaulting payments for players. FICA – Federation of International Cricket Association last week identified several T20 competitions where players have gone unpaid. SLC needs to ensure a mechanism that guarantees player fees. 

Read : Inaugural Lanka Premier League to start on 28th August

One of the problems that could come up is that leading local companies not showing an interest to invest in sport. Maharajas, Hatton National Bank, Delmege and Singer are some of the companies that used to invest heavily on sports particularly cricket but at present they seem to be showing no interest whatsoever. Sports marketing is a dying art over here, but its potential is huge. As a result of the lack of interest shown by local companies, we seem to be hanging onto any Indian product that is willing to come forward and we can do without some of them. 

India, Bangladesh and West Indies have all made an impact in ICC Youth World Cups in recent times as all three nations have won titles in the last decade. All three boards insist on players who are eligible for the Under-19 World Cup being given regular exposure, rubbing shoulders with some of the all-time greats of the sport in their T20 competitions. They are not just there to make up numbers, but it is mandatory that a certain amount of games are given to them and this is reflected when they compete at the big stage. Let us follow that lead.