Nepal’s cricket governing body on Wednesday took a proposed Nepal Premier League, an ambitious event claiming to match the level of some of the Twenty20 franchise competitions of Test nations, to its AGM, and soon it ran into trouble.
No sooner had the news of Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) preparing to sell NPL to an Indian company emerged, than social media exploded.
CAN’s preparation of selling out NPL to Seven 3 Sports of Gurgaon, India for a price of Rs 420 million for 10 years have been met with criticism, more destructive than constructive.
According to a document obtained by cricketingnepal, S3 has been given the “sole and commercial monetization rights with respect to all aspects, features, issues of each edition and season of the NPLT20, JCC (Junior Cricket Championship) or any other venture with respect to the sport of cricket administered by S3.
The agreement will mean CAN will only receive the license fee of Rs 420 million during this period, while rest of the revenue generated through broadcasting or digital rights, players’ draft or auction and sponsorship among others will go to S3.
Junior Cricket Championship is going to be another tournament that will target the development of grassroot cricket.
Is CAN really not capable ?
“At a time when Nepal has already been witnessing three Twenty20 franchise competitions which have sprung of organically, is CAN really incapable of organising its premier tournament on its own ?,” people have questioned.
Also questioned is the ‘meager’ amount CAN is ready to receive while outsourcing its own tournament along with the duration of which it will be tied up with.
“What is the logic behind giving away country’s cricket tournament for a decade long contract when you are already targeting to be a Test nation during that period? Is CAN very confident of Nepali cricket remaining stagnant?” a user floated the question in Nepal Cricket Fans on Facebook, a group with over 561,000 members created nine years ago.
Few AGM members from CAN itself voicing against the proposed agreement underlines the fact that the cricket governing body is now going to face a tough ask to amend the clauses although it has been decided to go with S3.
CAN Secretary Ashok Nath Pyakuryal said it had been in correspondence with S3 pre-COVID-19 and situations changed there after. “We have been in a situation where the pandemic is certainly not going to help us to lure sponsors who would provide us amount bigger than what is going to be agreed upon with S3,” Pyakuryal told cricketingnepal.com.
“When we began neogiating before COVID-19, it could have been a deal that would fetch us Rs 600 to Rs 650 million. For one single tournament and Junior Cricket Championship, its always going to be a good deal because S3 will also upgrade the facilities,” he added.
“People are questioning CAN’s capability of organising an event of such magnitude but this agreement itself is an answer. If there are resources available then we can make the best use of it and get paid too. CAN will have time to focus on other priorities because organising this tournament is definitely going to take a lot of time,” he said.
The current governing body has three years remaining in its tenure. Preparing to sign a 10-year agreement in itself is inviting problems, majorly legal, if a new committee comes in.
“S3 is asking for surety of not losing its initial investment as it only intends to establish the tournament in the first few years. Once it gets into the position of breakeven, it will require another few years to make profit. The remaining years will be its surety. Since issues have been raised over the proposed amount and duration of the contract within the CAN, we are mulling ways of amendment,” informed the secretary.
Nullifying other leagues?
The duration of the contract or the amount to be agreed upon, however, are not the only issues the association with S3 has raised. Another clause prepared by the S3 will leave organisers of other Twenty20 leagues with a battle to fight against the cricket governing body in validating their tournaments.
The circumstance for those leagues might be apprehensive or make them non-existential.
In absence of CAN owing to the international suspension slapped by the International Cricket Council, franchise leagues kept the domestic cricket floating with inclusion of the international cricketers who themselves have sought to play cricket in Nepal.
Everest Premier League became a big name of its own after managing to lure big international names like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith or Hashim Amla, although the 2020 edition was cancelled because of the pandemic. Other established leagues in Dhangadhi Premier League and Pokhara Premier League also see the inclusion of foreign cricketers.
All these leagues were sanctioned by the ICC in absence of CAN enabling foreign cricketers to participate with a No Objection Certificate. But a clause designed by S3 in the proposed agreement demands CAN to “ensure NPL as sole and exclusive official league and/or tournament relating to the sport of cricket with respect to a T-20 format”.
The clause means CAN will not be able to give official status to other leagues which might bar international cricketers. A tournament without international recruits might offer less competition, reduced sponsorship preceded by duel with the cricket governing body.
“There is no negative persepective of CAN regarding other leagues. We want them to continue but NPL is going to be the official league of CAN. We are concerned with whatever questions have been raised and come up with best possible solutions,” Pyakuryal said.
Irrespective of all the clarifications from CAN, the partnership between the cricket governing body and S3 is certain to face bumpy roads ahead and there is no way out without a decision review.