The IPL governing council is considering holding an additional qualifying stage for the 2011 Champions League T20 a few days before the main event, which would give a fourth IPL team a chance to play in it.
"Fourth team may have the opportunity to play CLT20," Sundar Raman, the IPL chief executive, tweeted on May 22. "But they need to play a qualifier tournament a few days before CLT20 with 3 other teams."
According to Raman's twitter feed, the tournament proper is scheduled to be held from September 23 to October 9 in India. The qualifying event - if it gets the green light - will have to be shoe-horned into the tightly packed international schedule, in the week following India's tour of England, that ends on September 16.
When contacted by ESPNcricinfo, Raman did not confirm or deny there were plans for a qualifying tournament, saying in an email, "We will inform the media on the developments around CLT20 soon", but a member of the Champions League governing council told ESPNcricinfo that the tournament would be formally confirmed at the end of the governing council meeting in Chennai on Sunday.
Meanwhile the Times of India reported on Tuesday that the three other teams in the potential qualifier would be the domestic T20 champions from New Zealand, Sri Lanka and West Indies, with the top two teams qualifying for the Champions League proper after a six-match tournament.
If the qualifier were to take place, that would turn the Champions League into a 10-team tournament from a 12-team one. Three teams from India, two each from Australia and South Africa and one from England would have guaranteed spots in the event. The competition for the remaining two spots would leave at least one of New Zealand, Sri Lanka and West Indies without representation, with two countries standing to lose out if the fourth IPL team qualifies.
According to the Times of India, one of the reasons for the qualifier is to make sure the strongest teams make it to the main event. Given the $1 billion ESPN Star spent on the television rights for the event, there is a concern about television ratings, which have been subdued compared to the IPL. So far most of the viewer interest has centered on the IPL teams, which is another incentive for more IPL participation.