The South African cricket league with Archer, Buttler and IPL influence

Monday 09 January 2023 6:03pm

Jos Buttler
The SA20 begins tomorrow with each side in the South African T20 league owned and funded by an IPL franchise. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Tomorrow, on a sunny summer evening in South Africa, the world’s newest T20 cricket league gets underway. But this one is like something sport has never seen before. Because every one of the six franchises – each based out of a different South African city or region – is owned by an Indian Premier League (IPL) team.

It is thought to be the first time an entirely new league has been snapped up by teams who all play in another league on a different continent.

So what’s going on? And is this just cricket’s version of the football groups who own multiple clubs in different countries?

“Even Test match loving cricket traditionalists have to applaud the innovations we’re seeing in the marketing of the T20 game,” Matthew Fletcher-Jones, a sports communications consultant, tells City AM

“The IPL is now a global leader in sport and it’s a very savvy move to give the new SA20 league a leg-up – and a ready made international audience – by using the names and colors of the established Indian franchises.

“With many T20 teams being effectively ‘new’ and the players on short-term contracts it isn’t easy to build fanbases in a traditional manner, so why not make them global brands who play all year round at different ‘home’ grounds? ”

The competition begins tonight with the MI (Mumbai Indians) Cape Town taking on Paarl Royals (from the Rajasthan Royals franchise).

But there’s no shortage of overseas stars taking part despite the competition overlapping with Australia’s Big Bash, Bangladesh’s Premier League and the UAE’s ILT20 League.

Cape Town will enjoy the likes of Rashid Khan, Sam Curran, Liam Livingsone, Olly Stone and even Jofra Archer, while the Royals are blessed with Jos Buttler, Jason Roy and Eoin Morgan.

“Branding is really important,” Ged Colleypriest, founder of Underdog Sports Marketing, adds. “The IPL-owned teams have incorporated their own identity into the team names and it will be interesting to see how this lands in South Africa.

“I think it’s imperative that they’ve included the city names in the names for the local market. The temptation is to look at India as the biggest market and crowd in the IPL branding but it has to feel like an authentic competition in its home country.

“Sports fans in Johannesburg can get behind a team with its city in the name, which is where I feel some of the branding around The Hundred falls down.”

So an idea like this, on this scale, feels new to sport but could it be the future of franchise expansion? the IPLlike City Football Group and Ineos, has always seen growth as core to their future proofing mechanisms, so it could become a model for others to follow.

“As to the motivation of the IPL franchises, you could make the case that this is a standalone investment hoping to turn a profit by bringing the very successful IPL model to South Africa,” Mike Preston, private equity partner at Cleary Gottlieb, says.

“But I don’t think that’s it. The IPL tournament, successful as it is, runs for only eight weeks, and I think that the IPL is looking to grow its calendar and window of exposure.

“This isn’t the IPL’s first foray outside India – certain IPL franchises already have investments in the Caribbean’s CPL and Major League Cricket in the US – and we might now see more such investments by the IPL in future.”

“I’ve no doubt other sports will be eyeing up this model,” Colleypriest adds. “Getting already successful cricket franchises to bankroll your own domestic league could be a masterstroke. You’d have to say that looks preferable to The Hundred model of injecting huge sums of your own money into a new form of the sport.”

“I hardly see any risk for the IPL after the expansion to this league,” Himanshu Pareek, an Indian sports journalist, says. “The BCCI [India’s governing body] is very clear about not allowing active Indian players to participate in foreign leagues to maintain the exclusivity of the IPL.

“The IPL will always thrive and get bigger, it will always be the top benchmark for any player.”

Tonight another T20 league launches, as if the world of cricket needed another one, but SA20 is fascinating. It’s got the home grown players, overseas stars and the backing of a globally recognized sports league. Let’s hope the cricket lives up to the off-field buzz.

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