The Emirates Cricket Board on Thursday (November 15) announced that the inaugural T20x League, the franchise T20 tournament scheduled to begin in the UAE next month, would not be going ahead. Despite gaining ICC approval, as well as securing such names as Shahid Afridi, Kumar Sangakkara, Eoin Morgan, David Miller and Andre Russell as Icon Players, the ECB and their commercial partners Opi Group were unable to find buyers for three of the five franchises.
“Whilst negotiations had been completed on two franchise teams and a further three were well advanced, it was felt that there was no longer sufficient time to close the sales process and to successfully deliver and promote a December event.” read a statement released by the ECB today.
With the Full Member boards at the ICC suggesting in July that the ICC should consider a clampdown on the proliferation of franchise leagues, perhaps limiting the participation of players to a given number or leagues, the T20x project suffered somewhat from regulatory uncertainty, which impacted commercial planning.
“The decision of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in July to explore potential limitations on T20 cricket leagues and player participation in them, meant that investment into UAE T20x had to be curtailed throughout the summer in anticipation of a decision. This in turn impacted timings around commercial conversations with potential franchise buyers.” read the statement.
The Pakistan Cricket Board, which hosts their own T20 franchise league in the UAE, is also understood to have raised concerns about the project and the impact market crowding might have on the popularity of the Pakistan Super League.
The T20x becomes the second Associate T20 league to be cancelled this year, with the 2018 Hong Kong T20 Blitz also pushed to 2019. Its cancellation will be a disappointment to both local Emirati players and their Associate peers, with three spots per team reserved for each, as well as two slots for emerging talent.
The unique team-composition rules had promised to make the league a truly global affair, and made the competition especially attractive to players from the game’s less-celebrated names, with some 500 players from as far afield as Nepal and even Japan expressing interest in entering their names for the draft, which was scheduled to take place on Saturday.
A handful of those players will nonetheless be travelling to the Emirates for the ECB’s T10 League, which will be going ahead as planned from November 23 and run until December 2. The T20x Chief Executive Salman Sarwar Butt was also optimistic that the league might find a new home outside the UAE telling The National, “It is a sad thing that we are not going to continue with this concept in UAE, but I think T20x is a great concept.”
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