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PCB forced to abandon franchise model for Pakistan Junior League

The board has now taken ownership of the inaugural edition and on Tuesday announced six teams for the league

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
Pakistan fans pack the stands, Pakistan vs Australia, Men's T20 World Cup 2021, 2nd semi-final, Dubai, November 11, 2021

Pakistan fans will get to watch the Pakistan Junior League in Lahore from October 5 to 21  •  ICC/Getty Images

The PCB has been forced to abandon the franchise model for the Pakistan Junior League (PJL - its T20 league for Under-19 cricketers) after bidders failed by a considerable distance to match the base price the PCB had set for franchise ownership. The board has now taken ownership of the inaugural edition and on Tuesday announced six teams from Bahawalpur, Gujranwala, Gwadar, Hyderabad, Mardan and Rawalpindi.
The six teams will play 19 games in Lahore from October 5 to 21 (revised from October 1 to 15). The board said 140 cricketers from 18 countries had expressed an interest in participating in the tournament. Players between the ages of 15 and 19 will be picked through a draft process, due to be held on September 6.
The PCB called the move towards this ownership a "strategic decision" though the failure to find bidders in the market that met its own expectations is a blow to its ambitious plans for this league. "Instead of selling team rights, the PCB has made a strategic decision to take complete ownership of the inaugural edition," PCB CEO Faisal Hasnain said in a release. "This gives us the chance to present to the world and to all our valued commercial partners that this is an event that has high value, context and is here to stay.
"While the process for the sale of other commercial inventory is ongoing and we remain confident of attracting high-quality sponsors, I want to thank all the investors who expressed their interest in procuring team naming rights. We will continue the discussions with them after the completion of the tournament, with a future aim of building a long-term relationship."
Plans for the league were revealed earlier this year, the brainchild of board chairman Ramiz Raja. The board has avoided tapping into existing franchises in the PSL and wanted to have franchises in cities outside the PSL universe. The board believes there is enough interest among commercial sponsors and as many as 24 companies have expressed an interest at being involved in different capacities. But response to title sponsorships rights and for streaming the event digitally is believed to have been lukewarm so far: four companies came forward for the title sponsorship rights and one broadcaster for the digital rights, though in both cases the bids are believed to be below the PCB's expectations.
The board has roped in Shahid Afridi, Javed Miandad, Daren Sammy, Colin Munro, Imran Tahir, Vivian Richards and Shoaib Malik as mentors for each team in the league.
"The Pakistan Junior League dovetails very nicely with the PCB's Development Programme, through which we organise schools, clubs, City Cricket Association, Cricket Association and PCB-organised 50-over and three-day tournaments," Hasnain said. "As the game's regulatory and governing body in Pakistan, it is our responsibility to attract and create chances for our talented youth so that they not only make a career as a professional cricketer, but also solidify our bench-strength."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent