The auction for the six franchises of the Bangladesh Premier League has been completed with a total of $6.49 million spent, and none of the teams fetching much more than their base price of $1 million. Chittagong was the most expensive franchise at $1.2 million and Barisal the least at $1.01 million.
BPL governing council secretary Sirajuddin Mohammed Alamgir, however, said he was delighted that the teams had been bought because the tournament, which has received considerable promotion, can now go ahead as planned next month without any hitches. "We are very happy that it has all been completed properly," Alamgir told ESPNcricinfo. "We have the tournament guaranteed now and we didn't have to face any embarrassing situations. Bids were placed and we had the franchises sold."
The auction, held in Dhaka, was a low-key event after the sudden demise of the Bangladesh Cricket Board's chief Manzur Ahmed in the morning. The franchises have been bought for a six-year period.
The Chittagong franchise was bought by SQ Sports, a group of businessmen led by Dhaka Dyeing, who outbid Pearl Trading ($1.05 million) and Digital Auto Care ($1 million). The fact that a $200,000 bump from the base price was the highest for any team says a lot about the bidding war - or lack of it.
The second-highest price offered was for Khulna, which was bought by Orion Group for $1.1 million. Digital Auto Care paid just $1.07 million for Rajshahi; a group of business houses led by Walton, a local electronic goods manufacturing giant, bought Sylhet for $1.06 million; and the Dhaka franchise was picked up by Europa Group for $1.05 million with the other bidders - Digital Auto Care and Euro Impex - offering the base price. This was a bit of a surprise given the prestige attached to the country's biggest division. When the teams were sold for the National Cricket League T20s two years ago there had been fierce competition between bidders for the Dhaka team.
The Alif Group acquired the Barisal franchise for the lowest price of all the teams: $1.01 million. The bidding for the Barisal team turned into a bit of a farce when Southern International quoted $900,000, which was less than the base price for a franchise. That bid indicated the lack of confidence investors seemed to have in the benefits of buying a franchise.
The money paid to acquire the franchises will go to Game On Sports, who signed a six-year deal worth $44.3 million with the BCB, acquiring the rights to manage the BPL.
"Game On Sports will get all the income from this auction, which will be paid in yearly installments," Alamgir said. "The companies that have bought the franchises will be in control of their respective teams for six years, though they can sell them after three years. As for the payment to be received by the BCB from Game On Sports, that will be received in installments over six years, paid 30 days after the end of each edition of the tournament."
The absence of bids from big corporate houses was something even the eventual franchise owners expressed concern about, but they expect the profile of the tournament to grow once it starts. Notably, the companies that bought National Cricket League T20 franchises two years ago did not bid for teams this time. That tournament only lasted one season, and that experience, coupled with the fragility of the Bangladesh market, kept them away from the auction.
Foreign buyers were also rumoured to have shown interest in buying teams but none came forward in the end. There is hope that owners of IPL franchises will buy stakes in the BPL franchises from their owners.
Alamgir said that the revenue generated by the BPL would be ploughed back into first-class and age-group level cricket in Bangladesh, though the franchises will not have any obligation to develop or have any connection to the divisional sides. "The BCB's policy will be to use this money for longer-version cricket as well as for schools and age-group cricket. It will help us put the regional structure in place.
"But these franchises are businesses so we can't ask their owners to develop regional cricket. They can do it if they want, but primarily the franchises need to be run as professionally strong units with a focus on developing marketing and team management."
The Rajshahi team owners have moved quickly, and have already roped in former chief selector and Bangladesh captain Faruk Ahmed as the manager of the team, and former opener Athar Ali Khan as its chief advisor. They will also involve former national captain Khaled Mashud, who is regarded as the most influential man in Rajshahi cricket.
Europa Group, the Dhaka franchise owners, have asked former Bangladesh captain and current national team selector Habibul Bashar to build their team as its chief consultant.
The players' auction will be held on January 19 in Dhaka, and will feature several international cricketers, as well as local players, who will be justifiably excited about the prospects of signing a lucrative deal.
Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka