IPL 2012 May 12, 2012

IPL teams get nod to play Associates, Affiliates

The BCCI's working committee has approved a proposal to allow IPL franchises to play a limited number of friendly matches in ICC Associate and Affiliate countries between June and August, subject to guidelines that the board will set down at a later date. While reactions have been muted given the lack of immediate clarity, the decision is being seen as a way for franchises to extend their visibility beyond the league's two-month window.

A board official told ESPNcricinfo that the decision arose out of a number of discussions the IPL governing body has been having with the franchises over the years.

The possibility of the franchises playing games outside the IPL was discussed at the franchise workshop held in Goa earlier this year, a franchise official said. The teams are eager to do so as it gives them a chance to generate more revenue while also helping them to build their fan bases, both in and outside India. One the problems the teams have faced in building fan loyalty is that the IPL season only lasts six weeks and so they struggle to keep their fans engaged the rest of the year. The more matches a team plays, the longer they can hold the interest of their fans.

Arvinder Singh, the chief operating officer of Kings XI Punjab, told ESPNcricinfo that they "are very happy to get this permission". According to him, Kings XI has been contacted by a number of Associate and Affiliate countries, such as Canada and the USA, to stage exhibition games in those countries. There has also been interest from the UK and the West Indies. CEO of the Delhi Daredevils franchise, Amrit Mathur, was also pleased by the development. "It is good for brand promotion and for fan engagement," he said. "It is a major step forward."

While the details of the number of matches, their locations and the modes of funding are still to be decided, some of the franchises envisage being able to organise their own series of matches, either against an Affiliate country's national side or against local teams from that country. There is precedent for IPL teams playing matches in other countries. In July 2009, Rajasthan Royals, then the IPL's defending champions, played the Middlesex Panthers, then the reigning English Twenty20 champions, in the British Asian Cup.

In February, 2010, Royals announced plans to create the first global sport alliance as they joined forces with Hampshire, Cape Cobras, and Trinidad and Tobago to form a worldwide Twenty20 brand. The Australian domestic Twenty20 champions, Victoria Bushrangers, were also believed to be close to confirming their participation in the venture. However, the BCCI's decision to terminate Royals later the same year effectively ended that enterprise, though Royals were able to fight their way back into the IPL through the courts.

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo