India's terror threat and Allen Stanford stymie cricket's goldrush

Posted by: Ian Rowley on March 26, 2009

So much for cricket’s brave new world. A year ago the game, which dates back four centuries, was brimming with a newly found optimism. A new tournament in India, which would prove to be a huge success, had attracted a $925 million dollar TV deal and, in the Caribbean, a Texan billionaire was bankrolling a tournament and talking of taking a new, shorter form of the game to U.S. audiences.

Today, hurt by a financial scandal in the U.S. and the threat of terrorism in India, Twenty20 cricket, as the abridged version of cricket is known, appears to be losing some of its luster. While Twenty20 remains wildly popular with fans, this week the Indian cricket authorities were forced to move the showcase tournament, the Indian Premier League, to South Africa. The hasty decision was taken after the Indian government said it couldn’t provide security for the tournament which is to be held from April 10 to May 24. The government’s stance, while unfortunate, is understandable: India is already on high alert after the terrorist atrocity in Mumbai in December and the tournament clashes with India’s upcoming general election. If that wasn’t enough, memories are still fresh from the March 3 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus in Lahore in February, which left several Pakistani policemen dead.

For all that, it’s a huge blow to supporters, Lalit Modi, the IPL’s commissioner, and advertisers who cleaned up last year as the tournament dominated Indian TV ratings.

The decision to move the IPL is the latest problem to hit cricket. The success of last year’s inaugural IPL helped another Twenty20 tournament secure a near $1 billion TV deal with ESPN Star Sports, a joint venture between Walt Disney and News Corp, besting the IPL’s $925 million contract. But the first staging of the event, known as the Twenty20 Champions League, was postponed in December after the terror attacks in Mumbai.

Then there’s Sir Allen Stanford, the colorful Texan billionaire whose assets have been frozen while investigators look into the murky dealings of Stanford Financial. One of Sir Allen’s—he was knighted by the Antiguan authorities where his bank was based—sporting interests was Twenty20 cricket and, before his recent misfortune, his bank had been backing cricket in the Caribbean. Even before problems at the Stanford’s company came to light, his showcase event, the Stanford Super Series, hadn’t made a great debut in November. Its finale, a $20 million winner-takes-all match between England’s national team and the Stanford Superstars, a team made of the best cricketers in the region, was damp squib due to a pudding of a pitch. Sir Allen, meanwhile, got a roasting in the British media for cavorting with some of the English players’ wives. At the time, one player reportedly said he wanted to “chin” the errant knight. Given recent events, he won’t be alone.

Still, there is at least something positive for the guardians of Twenty20 to chew over. A row between Sony and the IPL which ended up in the Indian courts was resolved on March 25. The upshot is a new TV deal worth $1.6 billion—almost double the value of the original ten-year deal, which has been annulled.

Reader Comments

crickkkkkkkket

March 26, 2009 10:04 AM

Error by English administrators (1):

They keep talking about how they invented twenty 20, but failed to realise its potential like the indians did. So they missed the 1st boat (i.e. 1st mover advantage in a PROPERLY MARKETED twenty20 tournament; ironically modi based the ipl model on the ENGLISH football premier league).

Error by English administrators (2):

Australia and SA saw that there is one market in world cricket that dwarfs all other test playing markets PUT TOGETHER. so they accepted a smaller steak in the Champions League. England were offered such a steak, but refused on the grounds that they deserved 25%... it seemed like a principled stance until...

Error by English administrators (3):

They lost all principles by selling their souls (and landing rights at Lords!) to Stanford. it was a desperate attempt to appease their players who were beginning to look East... They couldn't predict what would've happened, but it was clear to see the $20m for one match per year was NOT a sustainable model long term, even if stanford wasn't (allegedly) a crook. i.e. they were trying to buy time whilst they thought how to thwart India / BCCI/ IPL / Champions League

Error by English administrators (4):

They suggested that they wanted 'to help india', by staging the IPL this year, but it is very obvious that their desperate courting had alot to do with a last attempt to recoup revenues that they would have taken from stanford. methinks that modi must have smiled when the very people who had apposed his ipl so vehemently came crawling back to him... and he must have laughed out loud when he rejected them in favor of SA.

Error by English administrators (5):

re. stanford's investors - they've spoken of regret at doing business with stanford, but not once have the England a Wales Cricket Board intimated any regret over the fact that their coffers were effectively filled with stolen money.

Newbie

March 28, 2009 1:24 AM

I agree with crickkkkkkkket.

Though T20 as a sport was invented by England, it took an India to realise its full potential.

Ian Rowley, don't assume that IPL 2 being staged in SA is a bad idea (though the trigger for doing may not be ideal). Have you thought about the fact that every alternate IPL being held outside India will actually popularize the Indian League internationally and furthermore it will also act a deterrent for the likes of ECB to come up with their own T20 leagies. Lalit Modi is mastercraftsman (sometimes the means he uses may be questionable), but in the end he delivers the outcome, and that's what matters. He will ensure complete domination of BCCI over International Cricket. This is payback time Ian. In the 1950 and 60, the so called great Australian "Bradman" enroute to London refused to get off the ship in Mumbai because India was a country of 'brown' and Australia's policy towards colored people. I can assure you that ECB and Cricket Australia will be returned exactly the same treatment now by BCCI. As we always say, never get angry, get even.

BusinessWeek's Ian Rowley

March 29, 2009 2:54 AM

Thanks for the comments. Fair points on the ECB and the long-term viability of the IPL. As an English cricket fan, recent events have done little for the image of the ECB. Still, I think it's a bit of stretch to see the switch South Africa as a good thing, especially for the supporters. I don't imagine anyone would welcome see the soccer version of the English Premier League spending a season in a different time zone.

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