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April 29, 2008
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."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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