Leicestershire's Twenty20 win eases financial woes
Leicestershire have not had much to celebrate over the past year with boardroom unrest, heavy financial losses and defeats on the field. But their Friends Life t20 win on Saturday and subsequent path to the Champions League Twenty20 will provide a huge boost - especially financially.
The Foxes condemned Somerset to a third runners-up prize in as many years under the lights at Edgbaston, and the club and players now stand to pocket at least £500,000 in fees and sponsorship if they can progress from an initial six-team qualifying event and enter the main Champions League in India next month.
Handouts from the England and Wales Cricket Board - which received a central payment for the English participation - have already been agreed, while commercial opportunities are there for the taking, though Leicestershire will need to be one of the three teams that progress to the main draw to exploit the opportunity substantially.
"It's been a struggle for us," Mike Siddall, the Leicestershire chief executive, told ESPNcricinfo after the final. "We lost £400,000 last year and are having to claw our way back from that. It's been really tough but we've had a lot of help from our sponsors. We've also had donations from other people so we have got the cash flow sorted out but it is still tough for us, especially to hold on to our players. But we are fighting and this triumph shows we can take on the big boys on the field and come out on top.
"Winning this tournament has been absolutely brilliant. If we can make some more money from the Champions League it goes a long way to repairing the damage from the loss of last year.
"The publicity from Twenty20 is unbelievable with finals day on Sky TV (and around the world also). There is so much to be gained from the publicity, which means so much for a club like us, which is bottom of the Second Division in the County Championship (46 points adrift of the next club)."
Siddall said that the ECB has agreed to disperse a participation fee of $200,000 each to both Leicestershire and Somerset. If either side progresses from the qualifiers into to the main Champions League, then a further $200,000 will be paid by the ECB.
"We will share that with the players and they will get a larger share than the club," Siddall said. "The players have also got £140,000 for winning the tournament and that's just for the players.
"We get £60,000 for winning it, plus another £25,000 from the ECB so it's worth a lot for a county like ourselves.
"But the bottom line as far as the Champions League goes is what we make of it and how we tap into the various opportunities out there. We don't know what the event will bring yet but there are possibilities there. Maybe there will be Indian companies who will want to get on our shirts - and I'm sure there will be - so we will be investigating that over the next few weeks.
"We're new to this. Somerset have been there before so I'll be picking their brains before we go to see how they maximised their income from it before.
One of Leicestershire's overseas players Pakistan all-rounder Abdul Razzaq faces an anxious wait to discover whether he will be granted a visa by the Indian government, which may not be as easy as the player apparently thinks, given the frosty relations between the border nations in recent times. But Siddall is optimistic.
"Abdul tells me he won't have any problem getting a visa, so we'll put that to the test. He's going back to Pakistan next week. He will have to sort out his own visa as his passport will be over there, but he's been to India before and he's confident he can get a visa so we will put our faith in him.
"I've not investigated all the possibilities just yet but I would have thought that if there is a player in your squad who can't get a visa you must be able to bring in another player. We will have to see."
Siddall's satisfaction at his team's 'Passage to India' and the subsequent financial boost is tempered by his own frustrations at the Champions League's format which he feels is unfair to the English qualifiers.
"I don't think it's right at all that we have won our Twenty20 and still have to play a qualifying tournament," Siddall said. "I think the rules are very much biased to the Indian sides. The Aussies also go straight in so there is clearly a nice, cosy agreement there.
"But they have invited us to participate and it's their tournament. They make the rules and we have to abide by them. All the counties agreed that we would have to go into a qualifying tournament as a way into the Champions League.
"I do think the English sides should go straight in though. But it will give us more motivation. Wouldn't it be great if Somerset and ourselves made it straight into the main tournament?"
He would know privately, though, that the fact the ECB are not shareholders of the tournament - unlike the boards of India, Australia and South Africa - is weighted against any English qualifier now or in the foreseeable future.
Leicestershire take on Trinidad & Tobago - without Kieron Pollard - and Sri Lankan team Ruhuna in their qualifying group B, while Somerset join Auckland and the Kolkata Knight Riders in group A. The qualifiers will be played from September 19-21.