ECB eyes Stanford partnership
Plans to set up an English version of the IPL moved a step closer when the ECB signalled their willingness to enter negotiations with the Caribbean cricket entrepreneur Sir Allen Stanford.
Players’ eyes have been caught by the billions of rupees on offer on the sub-continent but a sibling version – an English Premier League – appears to be a viable option.
That idea appears to be favoured by IPL commissioner Lalit Modi while Stanford is meeting with the Lord’s hierarchy at his own request.
England is in a strong position to host such an event in June and July each year as it is the only Test-playing nation in season at that time in the calendar.
But it would need to be attractive to a global audience and advertising market to generate the kind of revenue of the IPL.
That is where Modi and primarily Stanford, who has bankrolled Twenty20 cricket in the Caribbean, come in.
"Looking at all options is pure commercial commonsense," said Professional Cricketers’ Association chief executive Sean Morris. "There is no proof yet that the global TV market is strong enough to have a lot of different leagues.
"But it is genuinely achievable to make it attractive for everyone to play in.
"If we have got the right format and scheduling that will be an attractive product to the wider TV audience and that is where most of the money will come from.
"Half-a-billion pairs of watching eyes is also appealing to outside investment."
Current income from 20-over cricket in this country, while pleasing counties who previously lived hand to mouth, is a drop in the Indian Ocean compared to what would be possible with worldwide interest.
Suggestions that England will adopt the same kind of city-based franchises is highly premature to Morris, however, who while canvassing each of the 18 first-class counties for their views over the past fortnight has been met with overwhelming positivity.
"The opportunity created by the IPL for us in England is potentially very significant," Morris added. "Both financially and building a fanbase as well.
"The big issue is scheduling and how we do that to make it work.
"Research into commercial options will dictate number of teams etc as with the Twenty20 research which was carried out by the ECB six years ago.
"It is dangerous to provide the so-called solution quickly without the appropriate research."
Other cricketing powers Australia and South Africa may be equally as keen to add to the chain of centres for the 20-over circus but too many tournaments carries the potential of cooking the golden goose.
"We need to find how the players can take advantage without burning them out," added Morris, of the English proposals. "If we are going to add more to the cake, we have to make sure the players can digest it in bite-sized chunks.
"For the players this would offer the best of both worlds.
"A lot of players have been very keen to stress throughout that playing for England is their priority and they are very much looking to the Ashes next year."
Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, has outlined the strategy for the tournament which could function as the centrepiece of the domestic season from 2010 onwards.
"We don’t want a knee-jerk reaction to the IPL, but we believe that we can set up a robust, spectator-friendly, economically sustainable competition of our own which will not cut across the core revenue streams of Test and one-day international cricket," he said.
Clarke will be part of the ECB delegation destined for India at the end of this week intent on monitoring the IPL’s early days and discussing their own ideas for an English link-up with Modi and Co.