After hosting Formula One races, owning Newcastle United, admitting Cristiano Ronaldo to the national league and promoting rival LIV Golf Circuit, cricket could be the next sports Saudi Arabia ventures into. According to reports, officials from the kingdom held talks with Indian Premier League officials to launch the world’s richest cricket tournament in the Gulf nation.
Many IPL franchises are already involved in overseas T20 leagues from UAE, South Africa, the USA, and the Caribbean. But BCCI does not allow Indian players to compete in other domestic competitions in this format for fear it would diminish the value of the IPL brand.
Getting the best Indian stars to play in a domestic league abroad could be the real game-changer in this respect and will bring the cat to the pigeons. But if the BCCI is to be believed, that’s not going to happen any time soon, although IPL franchises can invest their money wherever they choose. “No current Indian player will be involved in any of the leagues but as far as franchise involvement goes we cannot stop them,” a senior BCCI official told The Indian Express. That is your individual decision.
We’ve seen IPL franchises go to South Africa or Dubai and we can’t say no. You decide to have your team in one of the leagues in the world. “The BCCI, which provides technical expertise in organizing a T20 league, could be a start as it gives IPL franchises another market to invest in. Everyone is looking for ownership opportunities in other countries, said a franchise official. “From a franchise perspective, it’s going in that direction. I don’t consider there’s a single franchise that’s simplistic. While welcoming the prospect of a league in Saudi Arabia, the official said the immediate concern was infrastructure. “Right now we don’t know if they have enough stadiums to run a league of this magnitude.”
As of now, the UAE is the top cricket destination in the Gulf region and has hosted the T20 World Cup, IPL, Asian Cup, and even bilateral series with full member nations. It is also home to the ICC Headquarters and has an impressive cricket infrastructure and stadiums in places like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah. Saudi Arabia does not have such an infrastructure but wants to get the ball rolling here. “Our goal is to create a sustainable industry for local and expatriate residents living in the Kingdom and to make Saudi Arabia a global cricket destination,” said Prince Saud bin Mishal Al-Saud, President of the Saudi Cricket Board Association, from Arab News. “One of our biggest plans is to have adequate infrastructure for the game because today we don’t have it. Read Also: Virendra Shewag slams Shubman Gill for playing for self-records over team progress
We are planning cricket academies, more fields, better facilities with entertainment, and other services to attract Saudi and foreign youth to the game.
One of our main goals is to offer the ex-pats working here a better quality of life. We have around eight million people from Asian countries where cricket is the most popular game, like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh,
The UK has extremely deep pockets and interest in investing in sports has sparked excitement at the ICC. “If you look at the other sports they have been involved in, I think they would like cricket,” said ICC President Greg Barclay. “Considering their general progress in the sport, cricket would do quite well in Saudi Arabia. They are very keen to invest in the sport and given their presence in the region, cricket seems a pretty obvious target.
The country’s heavy investment in sport and hosting tournaments and events at the highest level in the kingdom has been criticized in some quarters as ‘sports laundering’ – an attempt to put it in a positive light to draw attention to an allegedly bad record treatment of women’s human rights and the assassination of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. These activities include transforming soccer legend Lionel Messi into a brand ambassador, staging heavyweight title fights, and extravagant wrestling shows.
The magnitude of the League
Any progress towards establishing an official T20 league based in Saudi Arabia will require the blessing of the ICC and member countries. Recently, after the rain, there were mushroom competitions with various quality and monetary prizes. In addition to leagues organized by full member countries, offshore leagues in countries such as Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and the now nascent United States have the potential to push international cricket, which not so long ago was considered the cornerstone of the game, to the fringes of the Internationality to play cricket.
The President of the IPL, Arun Singh Dhumal, has already stated that he is not opposed to the idea of holding two editions of the tournament in one year. “If there’s a window for a second IPL, we’ll look at that,” he recently told The Indian Express Idea Exchange. And with the number of companies owning IPL teams increasing by the day and showing interest in signing long-term deals with players to play in more than one league, it’s a big challenge for the game like it has been known for ages.
Recently, Australian media reported that IPL franchises have approached their cricketers with multi-club deals worth millions of dollars. This can be an especially attractive option for players who are nearing retirement and looking for a big win.
“Everything is financially rewarded in the end. Those who strive for a central contract will be rewarded. I think the guys are looking short term at the moment with all the championships and stuff like that,” said veteran Australian Captain David Warner.
However, the franchise official said there were many loose ends to be tied up before long-term contract cricketers could be tied to play for a global employer.
“Having annual contracts with a player is not that easy as they are three-way deals involving the cricket board, the player, and the franchise. However, we are a long way from a scenario where owners sign a player for two or more of their teams to get a long-term commitment,” the official said.