'We made mistakes' - BPL chief
The Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) will collapse if its franchises cannot survive, the league's governing council chairman Gazi Ashraf Hossain has warned. He also admitted that mistakes were made during the inaugural season and that the league may have been born out of emotional impulses, but promised to correct the errors in the next season.
The BPL remains in the headlines six months after it began - for all the wrong reasons. The most talked-about of its troubles has been the unpaid players' wages, with the franchises missing three deadlines between May and July despite reminders in private by the BCB and publicly by national captain Mushfiqur Rahim during the tournament and by FICA afterwards. The cricket board has now stepped in as guarantor and begun paying players over the past few months, as well as handling tax issues that have been raised regularly by the National Board of Revenue.
Ashraf accepts the criticism, terming it a "costly mistake" by the league to rely so heavily for sponsorship on companies that are first-time participants in an event of this scale. The main problems seem to have been a lack of knowledge in selecting players and in drawing up a budget.
"There was no time for second thought but the finality of the situation dawned on us when they [the franchises] started to brand their jerseys, and it occurred to us that there could be a problem," Ashraf told ESPNcricinfo. "It was the first time and people learn from their mistakes, but it was a costly mistake.
"We are now considering issues which we should have thought of before the tournament. I won't deny that we made mistakes, and I think emotions ruled over our actual ability to stage the tournament. In the second edition, we'll try to create a win-win situation for players and teams. If teams aren't sustained, the tournament will collapse and along with it will go the cricket standards and players' futures."
Despite being the guarantor, the BCB doesn't have a formal contract with the franchises, which partly explains the board's delay in paying players after the tournament. The first season was based firmly on the verbal assurances, but Ashraf says that is changing.
"The agreements are ready, and as far as I know, many of the franchises are ready to sign it. They are our functioning partners so, taking the BCB's role as guarantor in paying players into account, we will come into an agreement with those who have completed all financial formalities," he said.
The larger problem is the additional burden of the Dhaka Premier League, a very popular domestic one-day tournament in which 50-odd foreigners turn up for the different Dhaka clubs each season. "I have doubts over the ability to pull such a large amount of money for two tournaments in the same season from one market, given that the DPL is also an attractive competition for players," Ashraf said.
Part of BPL's problem was the haste with which the tournament was put together. The window in the international calendar in February was incentive enough to go with it, but that meant there were major hitches. Game On Sports, the event management company that bought the rights to run the show for $44.3 million, had little time, human resources and experience to deal with the logistics. They depended heavily on the governing council which, according to Ashraf, wasn't very well prepared to handle such an event.
"It took some time to [settle] ourselves. We took a month or two to form committees, so time was short afterwards," he said. "But one of the main reasons that drove us [to go ahead with the tournament] was the window we got. We wanted to take advantage of it as a lot of international players were available. We also had the 2012 World Twenty20 in mind for our players."
This time round, though, a window - February 2013 - in the Bangladesh domestic calendar has already been allocated to the the BPL, giving the tournament's governing council more time to take control.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Bangladesh