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Report: Saudi Arabia and IPL in talks over new T20 tournament

Competition hopes to get approval from cricket’s powerbrokers to avoid LIV Golf scenario.

17 April 2023 Ed Dixon

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  • Year-round contracts worth UK£5m could be on offer
  • Saudi Arabia aiming to convince BCCI to let Indian players compete

Saudi Arabia has held talks with Indian Premier League (IPL) owners to set up a lucrative new Twenty20 cricket competition in the Gulf state, according to The Age.

Discussions have reportedly included allowing Indian players to participate in the proposed tournament, which would become the world’s richest T20 competition. Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) rules currently ban domestic players from competing in overseas T20 leagues.

International Cricket Council (ICC) chair Greg Barclay has already acknowledged Saudi Arabia potentially upping its cricket involvement, having invested heavily in other sports such as boxing, golf and Formula One, describing it as a “logical” development.

“If you look at other sports they’ve been involved in, cricket is something I imagine would be attractive to them,” he said.

“Given their advance into sport more generally, cricket would work quite well for Saudi Arabia.

“They’re pretty keen to invest in sport, and given their regional presence, cricket would seem a pretty obvious one to pursue.”

According to The Times, the new tournament in Saudi Arabia would feature teams linked to existing IPL franchises and players could be offered 12-month contracts, allowing them to play for sister franchises in multiple T20 events. IPL franchise owners control teams in tournaments such as South Africa’s SA20, the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and the US’ Major League Cricket (MLC), which launches in in July.

Year-round deals worth about UK£5 million (US$6.2 million) could reportedly be on offer – more than five teams the value of central contracts for England international players.

SportsPro says…

A Saudi-backed T20 tournament would not need to be sanctioned by the ICC, but The Age reports there is a resolution to build something with the approval of cricket’s powerbrokers in order to avoid a LIV Golf situation, which has seen players defect from the established tours.

Even so, a big-money T20 league backed by IPL owners and the BCCI, coupled with 12-month contracts, would drastically shake up the international game and its pay structure. The allure of franchise cricket is becoming increasingly hard to ignore for players and could see the balance of power shift, if it hasn’t already. In theory, players would be released by their club to play for their country, rather than the other way round.

National cricket governing bodies remain increasingly wary of lucrative T20 leagues. It has prompted the ECB to explore multi-year central contracts to tie down their men’s cricketers amid the growing threat of overseas opportunity for top players.

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