English Premier League April 29, 2008

Franchises won't work in England - Clarke

Cricinfo staff

Giles Clarke: 'Can you, I was asked by a leading television executive, imagine cricket lovers rushing down St Johns Wood Road to see a franchise called Vodafone Team London owned by an ageing rock star?' © Getty Images

Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, has forthrightly dismissed the notion that the future of an English Premier League - a potential challenger to the Indian counterpart - lies in a city-based franchise system.

"Franchise sport has simply never worked in the UK," Clarke told ECB members at the AGM held at Lord's. "Tradition and history rather than Bollywood stars and glitz are the binding which persuade supporters to return week in week out to our grounds - whether it is rugby, football or cricket. And some of the ideas spouted in the media have been frankly ludicrous. Can you, I was asked by a leading television executive, imagine cricket lovers rushing down St John's Wood Road to see a franchise called Vodafone Team London owned by an ageing rock star?

"There has never yet been a successful Team London in any sport and nor is there likely to be any support for a Team Manchester or Team Leeds from traditional areas of rivalry such as Liverpool or Sheffield. When ECB launched their own Twenty20 Cup it was on the back of extensive spectator research and financial analysis. This is an exercise we will repeat before launching any new competition because we have said this tournament must be robust, spectator friendly and economically sustainable."

Nevertheless, Clarke was gushing in his praise for the Indian Premier League, though he insisted "much of the look and feel of the tournament was taken from the ECB template".

"It was, as the Indians say, a great tamasha. There was light, glitz, glamour and music," Clarke said. "We must congratulate them on creating an opening ceremony and establishing a tournament which has a scope and scale which can be compared to the Rugby World Cup. Those who were in Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Mohali and Mumbai will talk of a great spectacle and a great show. It was described so admirably by Alan Lee in The Times as the ECB Twenty20 with more money thrown at it."

Clarke also spoke gratifyingly about Allen Stanford, the Texan billionaire who has proposed a $20million winner-takes-all contest between England and a West Indies XI. In addition, Stanford - the 239th richest man in the world - could yet bankroll the EPL, so long as he can ensure a worthwhile return on his investment.

"I know that he has been extremely impressed by the facilities in England and Wales and also by the scope of the work of the ECB and the excellence of the course plotted by its chief executive and board," Clarke said. "I hope to give more details in the days and weeks ahead but I can guarantee that everyone in the game - from playground to Test arena - will benefit from this deal."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • jgupte on April 30, 2008, 23:14 GMT

    I wonder which world Clarke lives in? never heard of a sports franchise from Manchester?! ManU? Man city? Does he not know the kind of business interests which own football teams? Can he be that daft?

    I wonder if Clarke has actually bought the IPL package on Setanta sports (the cable network broadcasting IPL games in the UK) & watched IPL live - if he has not, then its a shame that he is making comments about the league without having watched the games live - the stadiums are packed, the crowd cheers for their favourite players, even the toss! I was visiting Dhaka, Bangladesh recently where restaurants have set up separate IPL viewing rooms which are packed on game nights; the worlds best players are in India, except of course the traditions and stiff upper lips of the English players

    If Clarke has bought Setanta sports or watched the IPL, then isnt it a bit rich and ironic for him to say the league is not a success?! Its people like Clarke who r keeping cricket an upper class sport

  • Cool on April 30, 2008, 16:38 GMT

    Just like Ignorance is a Bliss, too much knowledge makes you a Fearful. ECB does too much analysis, spectator research rather than banking on a product. Imagine if all the products in world were invented after that much analysis. Human has always tendency to change. People whom them analyses can have a changed opinion just 2 seconds after they gave an answer and probably dont even know what they want or what they like till see you the product. ECB should believe like Allen Stanford has a belief.

    BTW, I am loving IPL. I just hope they make grounds bigger so that SIX, FOUR are little hard to come by. I am right now getting too much dose of fours and sixes.

  • Nick on April 30, 2008, 15:38 GMT

    Why the hostile reaction from fellow posters? Mr Clarke clearly likes the IPL and hasn't got sour grapes. Read his comments, instead of projecting. All he said was that franchising doesn't work in English sport in the same way it has done so well in India. England's sporting palate is more sophisticated than India's.

    "are the EPL football clubs not franchises and have they not been successful?" There is a blurry line where a franchise becomes a club, but there are clear characteristics that clubs such as EPL teams have and franchises don't: Promotion and relegation, limited revenue sharing, power rests with them rather than the league itself, cannot be dipanded except by their owners, hardly ever move location, originated as community clubs and became businesses, as opposed to the other way round for franchises.

  • Suryanarayana on April 30, 2008, 15:05 GMT

    The ECB has been caught napping and they are scrambling to pull together something to compete, or else they would lose their players to the IPL or the ICL. What they dont get, is the fundamental economics around the IPL. It is the power of a billion people watching the games on TV with corporate India fighting to pour money into the game. Where would they get this kind of support in England? The celebrity? The entertainment? It doesnt even compare. Further, remember that the ICC's FTP is already too crammed and world class players cannot play in both.

    As someone has rightly pointed out, they are poor in all forms of the game - it was shocking to see how the England team played in the T20 World Cup, after having started this format and claiming to have many T20 "specialists". They were proved to be no more than a bunch of mediocre players with Stuart Broad taken for 6 sixers in one over.

    Now that IPL has put on such a big show, they are crying sour grapes.

  • David on April 30, 2008, 14:07 GMT

    Giles Clarke does not have a clue, anybody who listened to his interview on the radio a few weeks ago will know the man is not in touch with what is really going on.

    As soon as he made his comments a number of England players came out and openly said they wanted to play for the IPL. He needs to wake up and smell the coffee and stop living in another age, he should be driving this forward not constantly putting up road blocks!

  • Vijay on April 30, 2008, 13:41 GMT

    I to aggree with most of above comments, it definitely a different story having EPL in UK because in India the cricket is religion to them while people are as crazy for cricket as people in UK for football, and the bollywood thing I think its not bollywood thats giving blitz to IPL but its IPL thats giving them an opurtunity to have a good investment of their funds in it. One thing is sure if you launch EPL here ti wont be as hit as IPL.

  • Flym on April 30, 2008, 12:51 GMT

    What about the tradition and history of Test cricket being broadcast on free-to-air television? He was the one in charge of the deal with Sky that took that away so to hear him talk about tradition and history us utter nonsense. As for twenty20, I do think caution should be exercised before going for the big money. As for the idea of merging, I think that players are proud of playing for their counties and that it would not necessarily work well.

  • rory on April 30, 2008, 12:05 GMT

    Once again a simplistic, even childish solution, is sought to answer a crisis in English cricket. Formerly the answer to competing with Australia was to have just six domestic sides. That huge country has six distinct population bases which forms the logic to their system and has nothing to do with their success. India is a booming nation with over a billion people whose sporting/pastime interests are almost solely aimed at cricket. Any attempt to copy their business model would be a shambles. English domestic cricket would be far better served by installing a simple, consistent programme of one first class competition and one limited overs competition. Preferably a programme that could be explained on the back of a beer mat, rather than the confused muddle which presently leaves even the fanatics perplexed.

  • Ramchandran on April 30, 2008, 11:43 GMT

    I see this has triggered a host of opinions and I would like to comment on a couple of things. First - it is not staggering that the IPL is compared with the Rugby World Cup. The IPL is meant for an Indian audience and every single penny it earns is generated in India. For India and Indians, this sort of spectacle is much more attractive and interesting than the rugby world cup. In fact they would be insulted even if comparisons were made with the football world cup or the olympics. Second - Franchise is only a term. Is not the ECB negotiating a one-man franchise deal with Allen Stanford ? The only way a domestic 20-20 would succeed financially in England is by way of awarding it to corporates and asking them to bankroll a team of their choice. You don't need to name the teams after counties or cities. Let the team sponsors or franchisees decide what they want to name the team. Just pick 8 or 12 corporate sponsors and ask them to pick their team and pay them.

  • Bilal on April 30, 2008, 10:28 GMT

    Although i am not a Rugby fan, but i dont think they have introduced a new format to it, whereas 2020 is all new, and to have that many international players coming there and participating in that league for me is very impressive.

    I do not agree with Mr.Clarke at all. No matter how many billionaires come together, they cant compete with a billion+ population, all mad about cricket.

    Secondly, Mr. Clarke is banking on Allen Stanford to finance the event (EPL), well there are more billionaires participating in IPL, two of which own franchises, and one of them (Mukesh Ambani) is the third richest in the list of billionaires.

    2020 is here to stay, and in the future 2020 will always be played on the format of franchises, its something all the cricket boards around the world will conform to in times to come.

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