The England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is about to unveil plans for a Twenty20 cricket tournament to rival the much-publicised Indian Premier League (IPL), whose inaugural event gets under way next week. An informed source within the ECB disclosed that an announcement on the matter could come “within the next 72 hours”.
The “English Premier League” (not the official name yet) will in all probability involve all 18 first-class counties in England plus three to six overseas teams, including one from India, which could be the winners of the IPL or another Twenty20 tournament held under the auspices of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
The blueprint for the “EPL” is to launch it definitely by 2010, but given the provocation provided by the IPL, efforts are bound to be made to bring this forward to 2009 or even strengthen the existing T20 competition in England, whose next edition is scheduled for July this year.
The proposed “EPL” will permit counties to include up to three overseas players in their sides in addition to “kolpak” players or those who by virtue of their countries’ agreements with the European Union have a right to work as cricketers in the United Kingdom.
Provisionally, an “EPL” is expected to be slotted into a three-week period in June andor July, when there is normally little or no top level cricket in any other part of the world.
The TV live telecast rights for cricket in England, currently held by Sky Sports, extend up to and include the summer of 2009, when Australia are the tourists for the Ashes test series. The ECB had already invited bids for the next four-year period for such a licence commencing 2010.
However, following the surfacing of the IPL, the ECB is likely to revise the proposal and even, perhaps, permit interested parties to bid for specific tournaments (such as an “EPL”) in the calendar rather than the entire package of test, first-class and limited overs events.
It is understood that if an “EPL” extravaganza occupies the attractive June-July window, then the existing T20 tournament between counties may be advanced to May. In other words, the ECB could stage two T20 tournaments in a season instead of one.
The source revealed that the ECB’s commercial director recently made a presentation to board members about the potential of financial partners and sponsorship for an “EPL”. Interestingly, the matches will occur at prime television time in India. This, given the fact that an Indian franchise, or state or zonal team -- not to mention the likely presence of leading Indian players in English county squads -- will take part in such a championship, could fetch significant revenues from Indian TV companies as well as advertisers and sponsors.