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Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, claims a leading English football club is interested in bidding for a new team in the fourth edition of the IPL next year. In an interview to the Times, Modi - also the Champions League Twenty20 commissioner - said he was in talks with the Marylebone Cricket Club who were also apparently eager to become involved in the IPL.
"There is a football club, a very famous football club in the UK, very interested in bidding," Modi said. "[They are] probably one of the most famous football clubs - that's all I can say. Probably top three. They are interested in taking a stake."
Responding to speculation in the Indian media, Modi later said on his Twitter page that the club in mention was not Chelsea. A report in the Sun named Manchester City as the team looking at buying a franchise although the club told Cricinfo they were not involved.
The IPL will include two more teams from the 2011 season and will auction the franchise rights at a base price of $225 million ahead of the third season, which starts in India on March 12, and will invite potential investors this week. That figure - double of what the most expensive franchise was sold for in 2008 and more than four times the base price in that first auction - is, in an uncertain market, a sign of the league's confidence in itself and the Twenty20 format.
According to Modi, the MCC would be a value addition to the IPL and open up the possibility of taking the bandwagon overseas to Lord's. "I have talked [to MCC] last night and they are quite interested," he said.
Keith Bradshaw, the MCC chief executive, did not deny he had been approached but would not confirm to join the IPL. "At the moment, our finances are focused on the redevelopment of the ground," he said.
The league's expansion will see a much longer fixture list - 94 games as opposed to 59 in the first two seasons if the format remains the same - and accommodating it in the 45-day window without compromising players' fitness, and keeping the international calendar in mind, will be a challenge.