Australian news May 13, 2011

Australian Twenty20 teams on the market


Australian cricket is on the "dance floor" of private ownership after Cricket Australia's board opened the way for the part sale of two Twenty20 franchises to outside investors. James Sutherland, the CA chief executive, confirmed the decision following a two-day board meeting at which the pressing issues of the 2011-12 Big Bash League loomed large.

A stalemate between CA and its players over pay issues remains a major stumbling block, and Sutherland could not yet say which of the teams - one each in Sydney and Melbourne - would be put up for sale. Nonetheless, the formal decision to seek private investors, either in Australia or overseas, was highly significant for the game.

There had been whispers of discontent among prospective buyers, some based in India, about financial and team modelling surrounding the sales, but Sutherland said administrators were now confident the move would meet with success. Money derived from the sales, with figures mentioned in the tens of millions, would come back to CA and then be distributed according to the wishes of board directors.

"It's fair to say we wouldn't be making these decisions today if we didn't have a level of comfort or anticipation about that," Sutherland said of the 49% model. "We might be on the dance floor but there are things that need to be put in writing and signed off on in order for those deals to come to fruition and that's really the stage that we're at.

"The board arrived at a decision this was an appropriate step to take bearing in mind the focus we need to have on the launch of the BBL, bearing in mind the levels of interest we are seeing from potential private investors, and just trying to balance all those things. We believe it's appropriate to put our toe in the water."

That toe will be protected by plenty of terms and conditions, designed to prevent the kind of circus atmosphere that prevails in the Indian Premier League. Shane Warne's revelations that he threatened to quit Rajasthan prior to the tournament's first edition unless given full control of team selection will not be mirrored in Australia.

"There's no doubt CA and the state associations are very concious of ensuring control of the game and the teams rests with the respective state associations and that's why the board's resolved to sell to allow private investment of up to 49%," Sutherland said. "That said ultimately it becomes an investment proposition we put to respective buyers, and there will ultimately be some sort of term sheet that a buyer needs to consider. We've got strong ideas on value, and not just in terms of dollars, but also other terms and conditions - there are some things that are not negotiable."

Negotiations on the MOU between the board and the players have proceeded even though neither party has shown an inclination to change its position, but Sutherland said the best chance of resolution lay in the healthy relationship that exists between CA and the Australian Cricketers Association. His optimism will be tempered by the shrinking amount of time left to reach agreements before player contracts expire on June 30.

"My sense having spoken to Paul (Marsh, the ACA chief executive) a number of times over the last couple of weeks is that there is a sense of goodwill on both sides to try to find a way through things and certainly our board is of that mindset," Sutherland said. "How those issues get resolved or unfold is really something that Paul and I and others from our respective teams need to work through, and we will I'm sure.

"I don't really have any firm timeframe, obviously the sooner the better, but I'm confident there's enough goodwill on both sides to find a way through this. We both need each other, we know we need a positive outcome and resolution, we'd like to have Australian players, state players and BBL players contracted as soon as possible."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • wayne on May 16, 2011, 23:13 GMT

    I think parochialism will be partly responsible for sinking this...for example, the Tassie team has now become the Hobart team, thereby losing a lot of support North Of Oatlands :) I'm sure this sort of feeling won't be isolated. And as other people have pointed out - who will support these teams? What will be the differentiation between the two Sydney/Melbourne teams? At least in the AFL, they've been able to manufacture cross-town rivalry by creating strong, separate identities for the newer teams (West Coast & Fremantle, Adelaide & Port). The proof will be in the pudding anyway, it'll be intriguing to see how it unfolds (from a distance - I can watch a whole day of test cricket, but can't sit still for a full T20) though I can't help but feel it's going to either devalue domestic cricket, or fall in a heap in a couple of seasons time...

  • Mark on May 16, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    Who cares!!! All ill be watching is real cricket - ie- Test matches and ODIs. T20 is ok to watch twice a season, but thats it.

  • Antony on May 15, 2011, 9:12 GMT

    Can't believe they've gone down this road, foisting these artificial teams on a cricketing public already bowing under the weight of fixture overkill. Who on earth will support these generic outfits? Who will buy the t-shirts?

  • Cricinfouser on May 14, 2011, 18:17 GMT

    what is happening???? we need real cricket not ipl,slpl or bbt!!!

  • Nick on May 14, 2011, 14:45 GMT

    Dear oh dear oh dear oh dear. Nothing is right about this - not only selling out australian cricket, but selling it to a business model that is doomed to failure. The (relative) success of the Big Bash has been due to the cheap tickets (and watch the prices skyrocket with private investors scrambling for a quick return), the existing quality of the first-class sides, and established state rivalries - a Blues vs. Bushrangers clash is soaked in over a century of spiteful history and mutual hatred....people won't get terribly enthusiastic about the Sydney So-and-Sos playing the Melbourne Rebels, sorry, Renegades. And as for the splitting of cities - local derbies only draw crowds if there is history attached to them (as in the AFL or NRL). Planting rivalries will never, ever work!

  • Brent on May 14, 2011, 11:48 GMT

    I think CA moved into this franchise league a few years too early, but we'll see. Franchise sports is all about the team branding and like others im not sold on the double up of sydney/melbourne.

    The scorches, strikers, sixes? renegades? what a bunch of tacky names.

    I'm guessing it wasn't possible but keeping the existing teams and adding in a couple more ie. gold coast/central coast? would have been my pick. The gold coast is surely due a cricket ground soon anyway with the suns now in the AFL.

  • Dummy4 on May 14, 2011, 8:53 GMT

    Let's have 8 cities, not 6. No teams from Northern Territory or ACT, or any of the rural areas. A bit short sighted having 2 from the same city. IPL doesn't do that.

  • Dummy4 on May 14, 2011, 7:12 GMT

    Pathetic! city teams is ridiculous. No team for me to support!

  • Dummy4 on May 14, 2011, 6:10 GMT

    Pathetic! city teams is ridiculous. No team for me to support!

  • Dion on May 14, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    This will be a disaster - the Big Bash was great even though I have little interest in T20 but now the states are not involved I honestly couldn't care less about the teams or this stupid new competition. Too much T20 cricket - real fans want the proper stuff. I think that within 3 years we'll have the Big Bash format back.

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