Bangladesh Premier League July 20, 2013

SLPL 2013 cancellation serves as warning for BPL

The cancellation of the Sri Lanka Premier League serves as a strong warning to the Bangladesh Cricket Board, which risks suffering huge losses if the Bangladesh Premier League franchisees continue to miss payment deadlines

The cancellation of this year's Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) has served as a strong warning to those running the two-season-old Bangladesh Premier League (BPL). The contracts of five out of the seven BPL franchisees had been conditionally terminated by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) last month after they missed the deadline for the third installment of the 2013 season's player payments; the BCB could suffer huge losses if the franchises continue to miss payment deadlines, but they have kept the door open as a "last chance" for the franchisees to complete payments.

If the organisers plan to keep the tournament afloat, though, they think the only way out is to completely overhaul the BPL's business model, which could take another nine months.

The SLC barred the franchises from taking part in the players' draft after they missed two deadlines to provide bank guarantees for player payments. The BCB, on the other hand, became the players' payment guarantor after the franchises missed payment deadlines during and after the first season in 2012. As a result, the board has had to pay on behalf of the franchises that haven't made these payments. Only two of the franchises have reportedly cleared 50% of the players' dues. In addition, six of the franchises still haven't paid the annual $250,000 ownership fees.

BPL secretary Ismail Haider Mallick said that the board has sent out half the players' payments, and is on target to complete all payments within the next few months. He was also confident that despite legally terminating the franchisees' contracts, the league can still get them to complete all their payments and continue to play in the league.

"We have paid 50% of the players' dues," Mallick said. "We have terminated contracts for five franchisees, but we are still open to discussion. We have only begun talking to some of them, so I am hopeful that they will come up with the money to cover the players' payment."

With regards to the unpaid franchise fees, Mallick is particularly concerned about Rajshahi, Sylhet, Khulna and Barisal clearing the payment. Rangpur has already paid 40% of its Tk 2 crore ($250,000) annual fee, while 2013 finalists Dhaka and Chittagong are supposed to receive prize money, which will be adjusted with their franchise fees. While the franchises themselves will remain alive, according to Mallick, he did not rule out a change in ownership if the dues are not cleared.

"Rangpur has paid Tk 80 lakh ($100,000) and has committed to pay the rest. Dhaka and Chittagong's prize money will be adjusted accordingly. We are only focused on the four other franchises in this case. If any of the franchises fail to pay up, and we do expect one or two to not do so, the ownership will transfer hands, though the franchise will remain alive."

He also pointed to the BPL's earnings from Game On Sports, the tournament's event management company, which could help mend their monetary hole somewhat. "They [Game On Sports] have given us a bank guarantee of Tk 10 crore ($1.25 million), and we should get another Tk 18 crore from them. This will help us, but we are still hopeful of getting fully paid by the franchises."

Mallick was appointed the BPL governing council's secretary alongside new chairman Afzalur Rahman Sinha a few months ahead of the 2013 tournament, and their first act was to clear player payments from the first season. But he has been critical of the BPL's business model, and has little confidence that franchisees would thrive after incurring such large losses.

"The third edition of the BPL will take place. We will have to change the business structure drastically, because we can't expect the owners to incur losses close to Tk 10 crore [$1.25 million] per year," Mallick said. "We have to consider the sort of market they operate in. The Bangladesh economy may not be strong enough to support them commercially. I think the initial structure wasn't sound, so we have to look into this before we decide anything."

Since the BPL governing council is still confident of receiving all dues, it is a little hard to estimate how much the BCB stand to lose ultimately. But if its effort to hold one more round of talks with the franchisees falls through, there will be a severe hole in its coffers no doubt. The first edition had reportedly earned BCB some money, but its own expenses far outweighed the earnings.

The story was similar this year too, with the BPL once again taking financial blows, as well as having its image devalued with Mohammad Ashraful confessing his involvement in fixing. The BCB expects the ACSU report on the alleged BPL corruption next month, and they could have done without the financial trouble at this stage. But having been too hasty in launching the venture last year, without proper paperwork and contracts in place, strict governance remains elusive for the BPL organisers as the franchisees have dictated terms mostly.

The financial blow resulting from a lack of cooperation from the franchisees could be so big for the BCB, that despite Mallick's insistence of holding the tournament "either in December or after World Twenty20s", the third edition may be a bridge too far to cross.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here