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Watch out ICC! Five reasons why a cricket breakaway league could work

Watch out ICC! Five reasons why a cricket breakaway league could work

The noise surrounding the possibility of a cricket body to rival the International Cricket Council is getting louder and louder with the Essel Group confirming they are indeed looking to expand cricket beyond the Commonwealth. While it’s all very cloak and dagger at the moment, ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five reasons why such a breakaway league has the potential to be successful.

The whispers are getting louder and louder over the possibility of a breakaway ‘rebel’ cricket league being established. Indian billionaire Subhash Chandra, the mastermind behind the now defunct Indian Cricket League, is reportedly registering rival companies in some of the big cricket countries. Chandra isn’t just targeting some of the countries where cricket already has a foothold, though, his vision is going global and is likely to target countries such as China and the United States.

In fact, the US already has an established breakaway governing body in the American Cricket Federation, which has tried to gain recognition from the International Cricket Council (ICC) for over a year as the USA Cricket Association continues to fail in its duties of running the sport in the country. It is believed that close to 250 domains have been registered in order to “cover countries and associations that could be affiliated to the new governing body” by a man associated with Ten Sports, which is owned by Chandra’s Essel Group.

If the blueprint sounds somewhat familiar, that’s because it is. Just like Kerry Packer back in the 1970s, Chandra is looking to rival international cricket boards and the Indian Premier League (IPL). Chandra, though, will have a far tougher task than Packer, but there are still plenty of reasons why the league could be a success.

Money

Chandra might not be able to lure players such as AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn, who already earn millions through their sponsors and the IPL, but he can lure players like Hardus Viljoen, Stiaan van Zyl and Simon Harmer, for example. These fringe players often grow frustrated with having to wait for their time to come and players like Viljoen are already considering a move away from South Africa in order to forge a more notable career abroad. Players who are not contracted to their boards can easily be convinced that they can make their payday with the rebel league, especially if the money that Chandra can offer is more than what they are likely to earn from their franchises.

Broadcasting power

Cricket can make a lot of money if it is broadcast on the right channels. Broadcasting deals are worth millions of dollars and with Chandra having the power of Ten Sports behind him, he’s already better off than anybody else who might be considering establishing a rebel league. These issues are not without concern, though. England are due to play Pakistan and South Africa in away tours this year, but with Ten Sports, Chandra’s broadcasting conglomerate, being the host broadcaster of both these series, the England and Wales Cricket Board might get uppity enough to pull out of these tours if Pakistan and South Africa do not convince Ten Sports to backtrack on their plans. Alternatively, Pakistan and South Africa could tell the ECB to get stuffed and join Chandra’s association all of their own free will.

Big Three powerplay

There is also the possibility that Chandra could simply buy out the boards of struggling cricket associations. With the ‘Big Three’ of India, Australia and England taking the lion’s share of cricket’s revenue, some of the smaller boards are strapped for cash. Should they be offered a clear-all-your-debts-if-you-join-us option, it would be very difficult for those who are strapped for cash to turn down the offer. Players who are contracted to the boards who are bought out will then, indirectly, be contracted to Essel’s league. Such a coup would give the competition massive clout, but players who are already earning their bucks in the Indian Premier League will be cautious about burning too many bridges.

Lingering discontent

If The Essel Group do not manage to buy out the boards, there are more than enough players to target. The West Indies, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe have all been involved in pay disputes in recent years. If a knight in shining armour could come sweeping in, offering them freedom from relying on the income from their board, a big group of players could defect. The question will still be, though, whether Chandra’s intention is to simply run a rival international T20 league or whether he plans to take over domestic structures completely. Of course players will be cautious here, too, because a number of the ICL players, Chandra’s previous league, weren’t paid their dues.

Global reach

One of the monumental failures of the current cricketing regime is their small mindedness and their desire to keep cricket as small as possible. Cricket’s untapped markets could have tremendous potential if somebody is willing to take the risk to explore them. The bigger the reach, the bigger the potential broadcasting revenue and if Chandra is willing to take that leap, who knows what doors can be opened in terms of potential. DM

Photo: Fans are seen in the crowd during the Tri-Series One Day International between Australia and England at the Sydney Cricket Ground, in Sydney, Australia, 16 January 2015.

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