Rahul Dravid was among the high-profile players present at the launch of the Indian Premier League
The Indian board announced the launch of a new Twenty20 competition, based on a revolutionary franchise system, which it says is aimed at enticing a new generation of sports fans into cricket grounds. The top two teams in the competition, called the Indian Premier League, will qualify for the Champions Twenty20 League featuring teams from England, Australia and South Africa.
The league is scheduled to start in April 2008 and will last for 44 days, involving 59 matches. The prize money for the league will be around Rs 13 crore (US $3million).
None of that is really new; what's new is the franchise concept, under which teams would be owned not by the board but by separate corporate entities on the lines of the major sports leagues the world over.
Lalit Modi, the BCCI vice-president who is also convenor of the league, said there would be eight teams, or franchises, in the first season, playing each other on a home-and-away basis on Saturday evenings. Each team would have a minimum of 16 players, of whom four would be international and four from the Under-19 level or from the catchment area where the team is based. There would be a draft pick, similar to that in the US, which will allow players to be traded across teams at market rates.
Modi, the league's main architect, said each franchise would pay a fee to the board for access to shared revenues and the right to exploit exclusive revenue. These franchises represent the cost of access to shared revenues in that sports league. The board would be responsible for the tournament schedule, providing regulations and match officials, maximizing media coverage and guaranteeing territorial stability.
"These franchisees will get marketing rights and also a share in the centralised revenue, which is yet to be decided. They will also be entitled to local revenue like ticket sales," Modi said. "Each franchisee will get one home ground and will have to commit to building stadiums at their base."
The ultimate goal, he said, was to create a franchised Twenty20 cricket structure for India. "The Indian Premier League has been designed to entice an entire new generation of sports fans into the grounds throughout the country. The dymanic Twenty20 format has been designed to attract a young fan base, which also includes women and children."
The high-profile ceremony in New Delhi was attended by some of cricket's most powerful men and the official stamp accorded to this new tournament would not have gone unnoticed by the Indian Cricket League. Modi, though, was quick to dismiss the idea the league was a trigger-happy reaction to any other private initiative. "This not a knee-jerk reaction to any tournament but a project we have been working on for two years," he said. "It is too early to talk about revenue but already 30 different individuals and corporates have approached for franchisee."
In his reaction, Kapil Dev, chairman of the the ICL's board, said he wished the BCCI luck and welcomed the Board's Twenty20 initiative, saying "competition is good" for the game. "I don't want to say much. I have been asked to run the Indian Cricket League and I will be happy if I am allowed to do that."
The league will be run by a seven-man governing council comprising former Indian captains Sunil Gavaskar, MAK Pataudi and Ravi Shastri, and board officials Rajiv Shukla, Chirayu Amin, Inderjit Singh Bindra,and Arun Jaitley.
Jamie Alter is an editorial assistant with Cricinfo