Monday, 14 April 2008

ECB Misses the target once again

The IPL is a business, at the moment it will exist almost solely for the purposes of making money. Franchisees have invested heavily from the outset with this in mind. The league is driven by the money poured into it from advertisers and the franchisees themselves. The main factor behind this is the potential money that can be gained back from the burgeoning Indian middle classes.

The Stanford Twenty20 is the original Twenty20 superleague, but is largely a black hole for the riches of Alan Stanford. There is not money to be made in West Indies cricket at the moment, and the investments he has made have been largely benevolent. Without the man the league would not exist and would not survive. Commercially it is simply not viable.

So to the ECB; like fishing with dynamite, or the Pro40 league, criticising the ECB is hardly sport and is barely enjoyable any more. However the staggering incompetence with which they are reacting to the Twenty20 storm is a special treat.

My personal views on the IPL have not changed (see previous articles), but I am currently puzzled by the bizarre logic being applied by the ECB. They seem convinced, some would say justifiably, that the International game and the county game are doomed. A view I do not share, but I am prepared for a minute to indulge them. The reasons for this opinion is that the IPL is swimming in money and can offer England internationals, and county players astronomical sums to play in their league. In the face of such offers they conclude, everyone will join the IPL and the Test and county sides will be bereft of players.

Their response to this conclusion? Take a perfectly adequate domestic Twenty20 league, that is there, or there-abouts at saturation point and make it bigger. This, they reason, will have a dual effect; the first will be to suddenly capture the interest of vast majority of people in the UK who currently don't give a stuff about domestic cricket, including television companies. The second outcome will be that faced with a choice of $1m for 6 weeks work, or the chance to play Somerset 4 times (!!) in Twenty20 cricket, people like Kevin Pietersen will not even have a decision to make. If we rename Warwickshire "Birmingham" and Durham "Durham City" then surely we'll have people coming the other way! The only concern will be whether the IPL can keep enough players themselves to make their own tournament viable.

There was an episode of South Park once called "Underpants Gnomes". The underpants gnomes were running a business with a clear plan. Part A was "collect underpants. Part B was "???", Part C was "make lots of profit!". Its nice to know that the England Cricket Board has a similar corporate strategy.

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