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Gain and future that may be built on T20s

Much has been written and debated about the advent of Twenty20 cricket and especially the concept of franchise cricket.

It should be stressed from the outset that both Twenty20 cricket and the franchise system are here to stay. Purists, like great West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding, have little or no time for the shortest form of the game, and do not view it as “real cricket”.

But, of course, sport activities, like most fields of endeavour, gain much, if not all, of their legitimacy via mass acceptance. And judging from the massive support Twenty20 cricket has gained in India, Australia, Bangladesh, South Africa, England, the Caribbean, and wherever such tournaments are played, the format has won the crowd.

We do not intend to delve into the ramifications of Twenty20 cricket and its impact on the development, or lack thereof, of players for the longest and perhaps most respected form of the game –– Test cricket. We believe that quality wins out in the end. The good players will adapt, the great players will dominate all formats and the mediocre will fade away, as they perhaps ought to.

What we would wish to emphasize is the tremendous commercial possibilities of Twenty20 cricket and the spin-offs in several directions which enterprising individuals can exploit. Sports and entertainment are billion-dollar industries across the globe, and Barbados and Barbadians must position themselves to exploit any attendant possibilities. Salaries paid to our best cricketers are indicators of the value the game commands. Needless to say, we cannot all take the field in coloured apparel, but futures can be built on innovations, associations and enterprises built around Twenty20 cricket.

We are into another season of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), and though it is primarily driven by private sector investment, we believe additional involvement by governments and additional private companies could only eventually redound to the benefit of Barbados and other regional territories.

We note that in the first season of the CPL, while other regional businesses got involved in the tournament, Barbadian companies –– almost true to form –– adopted a wait-and-see approach and basically none supported the venture.

Those with the expertise suggest that while money can be generated in the short term, it is in the long term that profits are really accrued. Media rights, sponsorship, gate receipts, space and other rentals are but a few of the ways revenue is generated in the enterprise. Under these circumstances support is critical for the longevity of tournaments such as the CPL.

In 2015, the Indian Premier League (IPL) contributed about US$200 million to India’s gross domestic product. In 2013, Australia Network Ten paid US$100 million for Big Bash rights. Regulated betting on the Big Bash over a five to six-week period was in excess of US$2 billion.

These are all economies much bigger than any in the Caribbean. But with figures increasing annually as a result of more private and public sector involvement, the popularity of cricket’s newest format is nothing to scoff at
or show righteous indignation in this neck of the woods.

That the CPL has attracted the best cricketers from around the globe is testimony to the prestige with which it has been held in such a short time. It has been packaged as the biggest party in cricket, with the added lure of regional carnivals, music, sun, sea and fun, all enjoyed in a predominantly safe and
secure environment.

The CPL is now venturing into the United States market, and with millions of persons from cricket-playing nations resident in North America, and Americans’ natural love of sports, one can safely predict this move is almost certain to succeed. But the overall success of the CPL will not be had with fence-dwellers, reluctant investors or those simply indifferent to the potential of the tournament.

Of course, there can be a downside to such ventures. The IPL has been hit by match-fixing scandals that, though not diminishing the popularity of the format, have led to some questioning the authenticity of a few performances and results. Organizers in India have been at pains to eradicate corruption from the tournament, and there are lessons which those involved in the CPL can learn.

However one looks at the CPL and what it offers to the region, the positives outweigh any negatives by a considerable degree. Some will point to the fact that most, if not all, the franchises are foreign-owned. But we suggest that without their involvement and the blessing of the West Indies Cricket Board, the league would not exist.

We believe the CPL should be embraced and enhanced, and regional brains, businessmen, sportsmen, and those from all walks of life seek out avenues through which they can benefit from the ripple effect it creates.

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