Champions League Twenty20 2010 September 9, 2010

Football shoots, cricket scores

There's plenty of money on offer in the Champions League T20, but it's still a long way from taking a place among the truly big sporting events

The connection between a miffed French newspaper editor, Wolverhampton Wanderers and the Champions League Twenty20 is unlikely to be readily apparent to all.

But it exists nonetheless. The story starts with Gabriel Hanot, who was capped a dozen times by France as a footballer before an aviation accident forced him to limp down the less glamorous avenue of journalism.

For a time after World War II, he lived a complicated life as both a reporter and coach of the French national team. The double trouble caught up with him in 1949, when his team was thrashed by Spain. What else could Hanot do but write an editorial, unsigned, calling for his own resignation? A day later, he duly resigned.

In fact, the saga of the debt cricket owes to football began a year earlier with the Campeonato Sudamericano de Campeones, the forerunner of the Copa Libertadores. As editor of Le Equip, Hanot published enthusiastic reports from South America that waxed wonderful about the notion of a tournament that dared to pit the finest clubs from different countries against each other.

Then, in 1953, Wolves took the breathtaking step of installing floodlights at Molineux. They followed that by playing several friendlies against quality opposition. A South African XI, Argentina's Racing Club, Spartak Moscow, and Honved of Hungary all came, saw and were conquered. More significantly, they were seen to be conquered on the BBC in some of the first matches to be broadcast live on television.

In the most enduring traditions of the British press, Wolves were promptly proclaimed "Champions of the World". Across the Channel in Paris, that assertion stung Hanot's Gallic pride like a recklessly tossed gauntlet. "Before we declare that Wolverhampton Wanderers are invincible, let them go to Moscow and Budapest," he thumped out on his typewriter. "And there are other internationally renowned clubs: AC Milan and Real Madrid to name but two. A club world championship, or at least a European one -- larger, more meaningful and more prestigious than the Mitropa Cup (an earlier international event for clubs) and more original than a competition for national teams -- should be launched."

Hanot's flaming arrow found its target, and in 1955-56 the first European Cup kicked off. What we have come to know as the UEFA Champions League final now shares with the NFL's Superbowl the distinction of being the world's most watched annual sporting event, keeping more than 100 million viewers on their couches.

Most of which is probably old news to the wheelers and dealers who crafted the Champions League T20 for their remuneration and our edification. Now that cricket has engineered a mutant format of itself sexy enough to give football a run for its money in the global goggling stakes, it follows that a game that was once the preserve of amateur grandees should make it count where it counts: in the profit column.

The total prize money for the second edition of the Champions League T20 is US$6m. The winners will take home $2.5m and the runners-up $1.3m. Semi-finalists will earn $500 000 each, and teams who get no further than the group stages will bank $200 000.

But before we think that puts cricket and those who earn their crust in its service in the pound seats, consider the staggering fact that Inter Milan were paid $11.48m for beating Bayern Munich 2-0 in the 2010 UEFA Champions League final. That translates into $5.74m per goal, or $127, 556 per minute. Even teams who were trying to qualify for the competition proper had their coffers boosted to the tune of $2.68m each.

That's right, sportslovers: this year's UEFA Champions League wannabes each earned $168,000 more than the purse that will go to the team that triumphs at the Champions League T20.

And just when we thought cricket was playing ball with the big boys. In truth, the big boys won't need pointing out to anyone who saw the madding crowd of more than 33,000 that flooded the street outside the Wanderers in Johannesburg in June to watch Portugal play Mozambique in nothing more significant than a World Cup warm-up match.

Or, if you see things as Tony Irish, the chief executive of the South African Cricketers' Association, is duty bound to see them: "The money in a particular sport is a direct result of the number of people who watch it. In India, that number is huge but in other countries it's miniscule compared to those who watch football."

The Indocentric environment in which modern cricket operates and prospers is also felt in other ways. "We did about as well as we could when the television rights for the CLT20 were sold (for $975m to ESPNStar for 10 years)," Irish said, "but a lot of that money is ploughed back into India, and there are only three Indian teams in the tournament."

But spectators at South Africa's major cricket stadiums and the comparatively "miniscule" audience in India and elsewhere tuning in for the Champions League T20 has reasons to be cheerful that they are not watching football.

For a start, they are unlikely to have to endure any scoreless matches. Also, players will not feign fatal injury at the slightest real or imagined physical contact with an opponent. Anyone who treats an umpire like footballers invariably treat their referees is likely to be smacked upside the head by a large fine, a suspension, merciless booing for the rest of the tournament, or all of the above.

And, perhaps best of all, there won't be any yobs straining their ample bellies against replica Manchester United/Arsenal/Chelsea/Liverpool/Spurs/Man City football shirts as they demand bacon butties and chips 'n egg from sushi chefs. Oh, to be in South Africa now that no English teams are here.

Ah, cricket: smaller than football, but to many - notwithstanding match-fixing, rain, the unbearable dullness of most limited-overs matches, greedy administrators, egotistic administrators, power-hungry administrators, actually, administrators, period, and, of course, opinionated reporters - far closer to being perfectly formed.

Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South Africa

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • bharath74 on September 10, 2010, 23:19 GMT

    For all those ppl who dont agree that cricket is losing its popularity pls see the following links. State of cricket in England: I lived and played cricket in England till 2007, i played for different clubs(nothing major) but it was so difficult to find proper 11 players. we had to manage the club with players over 40 years. I agree that popularity may be increasing but how many people are playing cricket also matters?

  • Dummy4 on September 10, 2010, 13:58 GMT

    @Gizza You should add Sanjay Manjrekar to your 'cricket will die' whiners.

  • Dummy4 on September 10, 2010, 11:09 GMT

    I would like to ask cricinfo why they allow such articles to be posted just before the start of the League.Already cricket is facing problems thanks to pakistan that we need more bad publcity for champions league.Whatever the truth matbe but this article should have been published after the tournament had been over And secondly money does not ensure popularity and popularity does not account for enjoyment.You eat at a roadside stand and try eating in one of the most costlies restaurants.Some items at road side stand always taste better then others.So u can never say that popularity and cost makes something better.Also u check out football has originted before cricket.And this is also the second year of this tournament.Check the diffrence in earnings of the 1st and 2nd year of the football champions league and check the earnings of 1st and 2nd years of t20 champions league.I dont know who is ahead but the margin would be very small.In da end i wud say cricket will prosper 2day or 2mmrw!

  • Dummy4 on September 10, 2010, 10:17 GMT

    down here in the caribbean cricket is still big , there were nonsence talk of how baseball and baskestball is taking all that is a big joke. baseball dont even exsist here in the cricketing caribbean. as for basketball i dont know if there is a sports name basketsball. in my country everyday the children play cricket. the only problem is that our national team is not once west indies start winning you start to see 15000 ppl in stadium again

  • Girik on September 10, 2010, 8:38 GMT

    Sawib and Vichan are right Bharath. I'm guessing you live in the US or India so I don't know what gives you the right to talk about cricket dying in every country except India, especially since you haven't done your research. You sound like Lalit Modi.

    You can go to cricket board websites (ECB, Cricket Australia, etc.) read books on the history of cricket, and do further research on crowd figures, TV viewership figures, and participation levels in club cricket for all of the major countries (and even the associate countries). You will find that all forms of cricket are in a very healthy state right now.

    In Aus, the cable TV channels show old highlights of WSC in the 80's when WI-Aus rivalries were at their height. But even some games where Viv Richards scored a blistering hundred were poorly attended. You can see so many empty seats in the crowd (especially non-MCG games).

    But people like Modi, Sambit Bal and Roebuck talk about doom and gloom because that's how they earn a living.

  • Cricinfouser on September 10, 2010, 6:42 GMT

    bharath, none of those players you mentioned are of only "South African origin" - their parents are English, hence I would say they are the exact opposite. So wrong on this 'fact' of yours. As for the game being watched in the UK "mostly by Asians and old English gentleman"...have you ever even been to a game here? From that post, I would guess that you have not, as if you did you will realise how ridiculous that statement is. And as you have probably never watched cricket in England, you are in absolutely no position to comment and make sweeping generalisations such as that. So wrong on this 'fact' too.

  • bharath74 on September 10, 2010, 4:37 GMT

    Saqib Malik : It make me laugh when u r saying that cricket is flourishing more than ever before. Cricket was at its peak till late eighties,. May be its doing better than 2000 because it has players like Andrew strauss, KP, Trott, Matt Prior,C Kieswetter, who are of South African origin. Cricket is watched mostly by Asians and old English gentleman in England.

  • Girik on September 10, 2010, 2:15 GMT

    Following on from my previous post, the number of people who formally play cricket in places like Australia may not even be that less than countries like India despite the population gulf. Australia's professional setup is probably why they have always been so successful.

    You even have to remember that there are people (I know many) who like to play cricket but DON'T watch cricket. Cricket is not entertainment or a TV show for them. Cricket is a past-time/hobby. Of course this is in Australia. In India the opposite is much closer to reality. So many people watch cricket but don't play it. Okay, I can't speak for Mumbai and the South but this is definitely the case in Delhi (probably Kolkata too). In fact the IPL may make more Indians more lazy and watch more cricket instead of play more cricket thereby reducing India's talent pool!

    I can only talk about Australia and India intimately but I think a similar gap exists elsewhere between the West and Subcontinent.

  • Girik on September 10, 2010, 2:03 GMT

    Bharath, the game is NOT dying. In SA cricket was always a white game but now because of Makhaya Ntini it is growing among the black community. Same thing is happening in Zim And it is very strong in Aus. Go to any big city on a summer weekend and drive around. In every park, ground or even beach you will see people playing cricket. In Eng, the number of boys and girls who are playing club cricket has been increasing since their 05 Ashes victory

    DON'T look at crowd figures. Look at the number of people who actually play the game first. Then look at TV and Radio viewing statistics.

    I don't even think it is dying in the WI. They just don't like their international team now. But inter-island cricket is still strong. In NZ and Aus the money that comes with cricket will lure athletes from other sports to come to cricket.

    Even crowds aren't declining in any form. Go check stats on 70s-90s Tests/ODI crowds. Overall the crowds are growing. And cricket is always strong in subcontinent

  • Cricinfouser on September 9, 2010, 23:34 GMT

    bharath, cricket is more popular in England now than it was 10 years ago. From 1990 to 2000 the England national team had gone through the worst decade in its history, however in the last decade it has been one of the better teams in the world. As such, the sport has a higher profile than in the 1990s, helped no doubt by a couple of fine Ashes victories and a World Cup win in the last five years. But compared to football it is still very much a minority sport, probably the fourth or fifth most popular sport behind football, Formula 1, rugby and possibly golf (based on domestic spectator numbers and television viewing figures).

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