Rescheduling a 'highly complex challenge'
The organisers of the Champions Twenty20 League are gearing up for intense negotiations in the coming weeks to get the inaugural edition of the tournament back on the road, but it has become clear they "face a highly complex challenge".
The BCCI, which owns a 50% stake in the league, is confident it may be able to hold the postponed tournament early next year in India but sources in the governing council, the participating teams and broadcasters that Cricinfo spoke to suggest the only way out will involve a "lot of give and take" from all parties involved.
The organisers are working the phone lines to first ensure a meeting of the tournament's governing council in India or abroad. Sources spoke of "working around" a Cricket Australia board meeting on December 5, while the Age reported the meeting would be held on December 8 in Cape Town.
The obvious concern is over finding a new window in the packed international calendar early next year (see box), though the organisers are extremely hopeful that some adjustment can be made, considering that most of these matches involve Australia and South Africa, both of whom are founding partners of the event.
"We are working towards a position from where we can hold the tournament in India early next year," Sundar Raman, the Champions League chief executive, told Cricinfo. "There will be discussions with all stakeholders in the next 10-12 days. We are working on it and we are confident that a satisfactory resolution can be arrived at."
As of now, the organisers and ESPN-STAR Sports (ESS), the broadcasters who struck a ten-year deal for US$975 million to telecast and market the event, are on the same page and relatively safe, in the sense that the financial cycle for them will continue to be that of ten years. "If it's not Year 1-Year 10, then it's Year 2-Year 11, so that is not really a huge worry," a source said. "There will be some kind of financial hit because of the postponement, but the larger picture remains unaffected. If any payments have been made, they will be adjusted in the coming years." ESS, incidentally, were yet to name a title sponsor with just a few days to go for the tournament's original start date [it was scheduled to be held from December 3-10 in Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai].
The real losers, if the tournament is delayed beyond the next three-four months, could be the eight teams that qualified for the event by virtue of being the Twenty20 domestic finalists in their respective countries. "The way the cards are stacked, it looks extremely difficult," an IPL franchise official said. First on the firing line are the four teams from Australia - Victoria and Western Australia - and South Africa - Titans and Dolphins. The current domestic schedules indicate that Australia and South Africa would have completed their next Twenty20 tournaments, which act as the qualifiers for the Champions League, by February 21, which will possibly throw four new qualifiers in the fray.
James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the "planned approach is a 12-month postponement". Victoria, one of the present qualifiers, said they have got an assurance from Cricket Australia following Sutherland's remarks. "We have made arrangements in good faith and we would certainly hope our qualification would be respected," Tony Dodemaide, the Cricket Victoria chief executive, told the Age.
Australia's Twenty20 Big Bash is scheduled from December 26-January 24, and South Africa's Standard Bank Pro20 event is to be held from January 21-February 21. "It would be pretty tough if we didn't qualify in January," Victoria's Brad Hodge was quoted in the Age. "Everyone was excited about it and this competition ticks over in the back of your mind while you're playing so it would be pretty disappointing if we can't compete in it … I know players had budgeted for it; that is what you do. I hope they hadn't spent it," he said.
"We don't have any information from the organisers yet but the situation, as we see it now, is complicated," a source in one of the participating teams said. "If the Champions League is held after these domestic tournaments, who will qualify: the new winners, assuming they are different? If the league decides to go with the old winners, you have a bizarre situation where this season's champions qualify for next season's Champions League. Now, if the new winners are the qualifiers, what happens to the other four teams from India, England and Pakistan? The one solution is to postpone the internal schedules of Australia and South Africa, but that - if at all possible - will only lead to further disruptions down the line."
The losses for the teams that miss out are substantial. The Champions League offers a general annual pot of US$6m, with $3m for the winners, and more importantly, a minimum guaranteed participation fee of US$250,000 for each of the eight teams.
There is also individual sponsorships the teams have worked out. The two IPL teams, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, are believed to have sold 100% of their inventory for the tournament, mostly in the form of associate sponsors and uniform logos. Middlesex has sold at least 80% of their inventory and the Australian and South African teams have also managed local sponsorship. A large part of this is promised money, in the sense that the money will be paid during or after the tournament, but these were funds the teams had already factored in, and were banking on.
In Western Australia's case, there is more money in the balance. The team had an arrangement with Vikas Rambal, an Indian-born businessman, which saw it change its name to Rambal Warriors specifically for the event. Sources said the team was to get a few thousands more from the organisers for letting Michael Hussey, their star batsman, appear for Chennai Super Kings.
For the two Indian teams, meanwhile, the primary concern is to ensure that their foreign players agree to tour India so soon after the terror strikes in Mumbai. A franchise official highlighted the immediate reaction from Shane Warne, the skipper of Rajasthan Royals, after the Mumbai strikes to indicate the current mood among these players. "It is just not worth the risk," Warne said. "No amount of money is worth the risk with what is going on over there at the moment."
Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo