Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent
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The PCB has terminated the eight-year ownership rights of Multan Sultans. It came to this point after the franchise failed to pay their annual fee of USD 5.2 million. An official from the PCB confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that the PCB repossessed the ownership rights, and may put them up for resale before the start of next year's PSL.
The franchise was owned by Schön Group, a Dubai-based enterprise well-established in the real estate business. Last year, they won the rights to Multan Sultans for eight years for USD 41.6 million (USD 5.2 million per season). But within weeks of taking over, the franchise struggled with finances and this year they failed to pay their annual fee. The PCB hasn't abolished the team, instead deciding to run the franchise's day-to-day affairs themselves until a new buyer comes forward. The new buyer will have the right to choose their own team name.
The PCB will now enter into a tender process to grant "repackaged rights" of the sixth team. "The rights holder will have the option of choosing the sixth franchise city and name. The board shall take complete responsibility of all player and coach contracts," the PCB said in a statement. "Pending further updates, the team shall be referred to as 'The Sixth Team' of PSL."
The immediate challenge for the PCB is to select the squad for the sixth team in the upcoming season of the PSL, which starts on February 14 in Dubai. The players' draft is set to be held on November 20 in Islamabad. With no owner at this stage, the PCB is likely to exercise its reserved rights to choose the squad with the help of same team management headed by Wasim Akram, which had functioned in the previous season. The arrangement will be carried out under special dispensation, and the new owner will have to accept the new ownership contract, with an already selected team for the upcoming season.
"While this is an unfortunate turn of events, we have to ensure strict adherence to contractual obligations for the well-being of the Pakistan Super League," Ehsan Mani, PCB chairman, said. "We wish Schon Group well with their future endeavours.
"I want to reassure our partners - franchisees, sponsors, players, coaches and fans - that the Pakistan Super League will take place as planned. Our preparations are in full swing starting with the PSL draft in Islamabad. The 2019 edition of the PSL will be a memorable one with as many as eight matches including the play-offs and the final scheduled to take place in Pakistan.
"PCB appreciates that Schon Group was the only bidder to meet the reserve price (USD 5.2 million per annum) PCB had set for the sale of the Multan franchise," the statement said. "This was double the amount for which PCB had in 2015 sold the most valuable PSL franchise. Asher Schon in particular has worked hard in building the Multan Sultans brand."
"It has been a privilege being a PSL team owner over the past year," Asher Schon, the former Multan Sultans owner, said in a statement. "I am proud of the support Schon has always extended to Pakistan cricket and current affairs notwithstanding, will continue to passionately support it."
In 2015, the PCB had sold the first five PSL franchises for USD 93 million for a ten-year period. Karachi became the most expensive team, with the ARY Group shelling out USD 26 million to gain ownership. Lahore was sold for USD 25 million, Peshawar for USD 16 million, Islamabad for USD 15 million and Quetta for USD 11 million.