UAE is all set to tap into the lucrative T20 cricket format with its own league – UAE T20x, a new report highlights.
ECB report highlights the importance of franchise cricket in growing the game globally and reinforces the opportunities this affords international investors
The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) today releases a newly commissioned report into the business of T20 cricket, highlighting the impact the growth of game will have on the region. As T20 goes from strength to strength on the global stage, the report explores why the UAE’s first owned T20 league, UAE T20x, has the ability to fulfil a unique role in the market, by offering attractive opportunities for local and international sponsors, and franchise owners.
With cricket being the second most popular sport in the UAE, only 5% shy of football and the most popular game among Asian expats, it stands to reason that a new tournament with a ‘glocal’ agenda is an appealing proposition for UAE based investors wanting to not only see a solid return on their capital, but to create a legacy in their own community.
However, with over 90% of cricket’s one billion+ fans being interested in the T20, it is no surprise that the innovative format has attracted a global following – and with it the interest of international investors. The growth of the game is clearly visible, the most notable proof point being the ever-increasing viewing figures of the major tournaments – which have driven a surge in the value of commercial rights. In fact, each Indian Premier League (IPL) match is now worth US$ 9 million, four times as much as an NBA game. When delivered well, T20 tournaments provide a lucrative business model – and it is this model that leagues like UAE T20x will aim to emulate as they evolve.
Commercialising cricket is not a new concept for the ECB. The sport is at a fascinating juncture already, especially now that the national team players are part of a fully professional squad in both one-day and T20 formats. This has been brought about by the governing body’s ability to not only commercialise the game domestically, but by leveraging its strategic location in the cricketing world to generate revenues through the hosting of international tournaments and bilateral matches. These revenues have then been reinvested into the sport at both an elite performance and grassroots level – acting as a clear proof point that the proliferation of T20 is critical in growing the game in every corner of the globe.
Wigmore agrees: “T20 cricket provides an unprecedented platform for cricket around the world to globalise, and for the sport to grow to new heights in emerging nations.”
The new UAE T20x league – as well as its commercial partners, franchise buyers and sponsors – will look to take advantage of the growing appetite for locally owned and played cricket by not only attracting the best talent in the world to the Emirates, but by providing emerging players with the opportunity to train and compete with the very best T20 stars in the game.
By tapping into the networks and knowledge-sharing of the global T20 circuit, the league will also fulfil another important role – and that is the creation of a free market for international talent from every cricket playing nation in the world. The ambition of UAE T20x to become the most internationally-represented league will therefore distinguish it from other T20 leagues including the IPL, PSL, CPL and Big Bash – further strengthening its position as a highly attractive and lucrative proposition for international investors.
Zayed Abbas, ECB Board Member and Official Spokesperson, explained: “We are excited by the findings of this report. Cricket continues to grow in the UAE and we feel like this is the right time to launch our own league providing our local players with an opportunity to train and play with the very best T20 stars from around the world. Our number one aim of UAE T20x is to offer a developmental platform for the best young cricketers from around the world, and of course the UAE.”
The report was commissioned by the ECB and OPI Sports, to coincide with the launch of UAE T20x. The highly-anticipated franchise league will take place from the 19th December – 11th January across the Emirates.
The report’s author, Tim Wigmore, is a sports and sports business journalist for The Daily Telegraph, The New York Times, ESPN, The Economist and The Spectator.