Sri Lanka Premier League adopts franchise model
The Sri Lanka Premier League has undergone a significant structural change, adopting a franchise system, with teams coming under private ownership instead of the SLC's control, and a draft system for those franchises to pick their players. The changes were announced on Wednesday by Sri Lanka Cricket, which also started the tender process for the franchise system. The SLC would have owned all seven teams had the tournament gone ahead as planned in 2011, but ESPNcricinfo understands that private commercial interest in owning teams has led the board to change its stance.
The reserve price for the franchises has been set at $3 million. The teams will be leased for an initial period of seven years, following which the franchisees will need to sign a fresh agreement but will have the first right of refusal. Those interested in owning a franchise will be allowed to bid for up to three teams. The tender process closes on June 25 and the bids will be opened the same day and the teams awarded to the highest bidders.
Under the original system, SLC would have assigned players to each team. However, given private ownership of the teams, there will now be a draft along the lines of the one held by the National Basketball Association in the United States. In the first year, a lottery will be held to determine the order in which players are picked. SLC will determine the value of the contract for each player in advance and the franchises will be made aware of the cost of the player. The players are likely to be drafted in two groups - the first consisting of players from Sri Lanka and the second all the foreign players. The draft is being seen as the best way to ensure that players are evenly distributed among the teams, making it a level playing field.
The seven provinces that will form teams are Basnahira, Kandurata, Nagenahira, Ruhuna, Uthura, Uva and Wayamaba. Each franchise will have an icon player, two of whom will be foreign players, and teams will be allowed a maximum of 18 players, out of which six can be foreign players.
Teams will be allowed play a maximum of four foreign players per game. Out of the remaining seven players in the XI, one must be a Sri Lanka Under-21 international.
SLC had signed a new deal with Somerset Entertainment Ventures to hold the league on May 5. Initially, the SLPL was supposed to kick off last year, with SLC's then interim committee signing a five-year deal with Somerset Entertainment Ventures to organise the event. However, the Sri Lankan board was forced to postpone the tournament after the BCCI refused to allow its players to participate at the last minute, causing a delay in the naming of the final composition of the teams and affecting overall preparations for the event. In addition, the interim committee that signed the deal was subsequently replaced and there was criticism of some of the clauses in the contract by the parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), prompting a new deal to be drawn up.
Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo