October 8, 2012

'The Champions League's success relies on the Indian market'

Four IPL teams head to South Africa for the tournament, but the home board's chief executive isn't too worried about Indian domination or about fan fatigue

For some, the Champions League Twenty20, now in its fourth year, is just an extension of the IPL. For others, it is a truer test of 20-over cricket, because it involves teams from other countries. What everyone agrees on is that it is an exercise in how to make money and an exhibition ground for some of the world's most entertaining cricketers. ESPNcricinfo spoke to Jacques Faul, Cricket South Africa's acting chief executive, who is on the CLT20 governing council, about how the tournament started, who makes money from it, and whether the quality of cricket has lived up to expectations.

Although you were not in office when the CLT20 was conceptualised, can you explain what the three boards involved in it had in mind?
It was formed as a partnership between us [Cricket South Africa], Cricket Australia and the BCCI to give an opportunity to domestic teams to play at the next level and provide another platform for them. It is also a very lucrative tournament for all of us in that we share the broadcasting rights and the commercial rights. So it made commercial sense to do it.

Are all three boards equal shareholders in the deal?
No, India is the biggest shareholder. But India is also the biggest commercial draw card. You've got to seek combinations that work.

India and South Africa are the two countries where the tournament has been held so far. It looks unlikely that Australia will have the same opportunity because of their time zones. Does CSA make a significant amount of money from hosting it, and does Cricket Australia lose out?
We don't make any money from hosting it. We only make money within the shareholding, which we would make no matter where it is hosted. A lot of people confuse the CLT20 with the big money of the IPL, but that is not the case. We work on a much lower cost base. As far as CSA is concerned, we host the tournament on behalf of CLT20 and then we get our shareholding distribution. There is no big financial benefit for CSA if the tournament happens in South Africa versus if it happens somewhere else. By the same token, CA get their shareholding, so they don't miss out.

Do the hosting franchises make any money?
They get a hosting fee that is actually paid out of our shareholding because we are hosting the tournament. So if we host at venues that are more costly, CSA will make less profit. That's why we are under pressure to host it in a way that's cost-effective. In 2010, we managed to do that. This time there are different pressures. For example, electricity has gone up 29%, so that will influence cost.

Then a shareholder could make more money out of not hosting the tournament, because then you would not have to pay the stadium fees? If that is the case, then why does CSA want to host the tournament?
Yes, it is possible that you will make more money if you don't host it. But I believe our stadiums benefit. We've got to serve cricket and it's good to be able to give the stadiums content. We are very happy to have that.

Are you happy with the standard of cricket the CLT20 brings?
I'm happy with the opportunity it provides the players. I'm happy to see a player like Chris Morris - who we want to look at as a future T20 option in South Africa - compete with the real world stars. We've also got different conditions here, and it's amazing to see true world stars adapt to playing here. Cricket has become a world game and to be successful you've got to be able to play all around the world. Our players benefit playing in India. I know it might not be that logical after losing to India in the World Twenty20, but we do get better. And other international teams benefit from playing on more bouncy wickets in South Africa.

There is criticism that the tournament is not a true "champions league". The domestic tournament winners from those countries who are not shareholders have to qualify for the competition but the shareholders' teams are automatically through. Is that a legitimate point?
Yes, it is, but I can also understand why teams would still want to be part of it. I think it's going to evolve and we want to get more teams involved. You've got to take into account their willingness to be involved and their time schedules. The name is probably a debate, isn't it?

Especially as there is not even balance in the shareholding, because there are four IPL teams. Might it reach a stage where each of the shareholders wants the same number of teams?
No, I don't think so. To start with, we're not all equal shareholders. The commercial success of the tournament relies on the Indian market, so it makes a lot of sense to have a lot of Indian teams in there. It doesn't bother us that there are more Indian teams because we've also got a lot of South Africans playing in Indian teams. Although the IPL is based in India, it has become a true international tournament. So I wouldn't see that as a negative. As CSA, we are happy with the two teams that go through. We've only got six franchise teams anyway, so even if we made it three out of six that play CLT20, that may be a bit too much.

There is the also the possibility that non-shareholders will not want to play in the CLT20 anymore. England said they will not be sending teams to next year's event because they are forced to shorten their domestic season to make their teams available. Does their decision concern you?
We would love the English team to play in the competition but it's clear that scheduling is a problem. We've got to respect their decision to give their domestic cricket priority. We'd probably do the same if it was to be hosted at a different time. We are always talking to them about how we can include them. They've got valid reasons for saying they won't come but there are ongoing conversations in that regard to change that.

This year, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are the only Full Members who do not have representatives at the CLT20. If England withdraw from future editions, might it open the door for either or both to be involved?
It would be lovely to have them both, and, for me, to have Zimbabwe involved, especially from an African perspective. Kenya is the same, but I think it would be good to get Zimbabwe in. They are a better team than was shown at the World Twenty20 and they will benefit from this competition.

More teams would probably mean a longer tournament. There are big concerns about the amount of cricket being played worldwide and about player fatigue. What are your thoughts on that?
We are very wary of the volume of cricket, and managing our world stars is something we've got to look at. I was at the ICC chief executives' meeting and it's definitely in discussion. We are talking about when is it too much. Having said that, we've got an obligation, and so do the other shareholders, to play our best players in this competition, and we will honour that. At the same time, players have got a responsibility to not over-extend themselves. Maybe they can cut out some of the other competitions, but I know that is tough. We've still got players keen to play in the UK and the IPL. I am happy if somebody can make a good living out of it. But they've got to be careful as well. You've only got one body and there are not a lot of spare parts for it.

What about fan fatigue? At the end of this tournament, spectators would have seen two months of 20-over cricket, and it's a format South Africans may not be taking too kindly to at the moment, given the national team's showing at the World Twenty20.
It's a real fear, especially, because you don't know some of these things when you plan to host the event. If South Africa had won the World Twenty20, interest could have gone in the other direction. We are mindful of an overload of cricket, but I think South African fans love cricket and love world stars. We've also got such a diverse community and this tournament can cater to that because there are teams from all over.

It's also important to note that CLT20 creates interest for a different group. It's a product that brings new cricket fans into the stadium. Outside World Cup events, it's a major tournament, so we hope that will bring people in. We accept that if you are a Test cricket fan this might not appeal to you at all. But just as Test cricket has got its rightful place, T20 has also got its rightful place.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent