Companies line up to cash in on first Pakistan Super League

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  • The PSL is slated to start in February 2016.

    After a series of half-hearted efforts that halted midway, the PCB is finally gearing towards delivering the first edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in February 2016.

    The agreed venue for the breakthrough event was Doha, Qatar but after some lengthy deliberations with UAE officials, the PCB is set to shift the league to the more developed and prudent cricketing infrastructure of the Emirates—Pakistan’s ‘home’ venue since the terror attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore six years ago.

    The PCB’s think tank initially had plans of outsourcing the league to a third party. Last year senior officials had shortlisted two bidders – Haier Group and Aman Foundation. Both parties were asked to pay a guarantee sum of Rs 200 million up front for exclusive rights over a 15 year period.

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    Following weeks of uncertainty both parties were returned their guaranteed sums and the league was postponed indefinitely.

    This year, the PCB appears more determined than ever and under Najam Sethi, a PSL team was formed to deliver the league. This occurred after the board realised— through consultation with sports marketing and event management experts — that there was more money to be made by executing the event under its own patronage.

    Just like the Indian Premier League (IPL), the PSL is building a franchise system for the tournament. The potential investors need at least Rs 100 million investments in the project.

    Karachi set to be costliest franchise
    The franchise base is expected to be widespread, with an official close to the distribution of backers saying: “Besides banks, there are business consortiums based in UK and the UAE who are in an advance stage of negotiations with us. A leading media group has almost closed out a deal, so we are confident of getting the numbers we have forecasted.” 

    The PSL team hopes to finish the bidding and franchise allocation process by December 2015.

    “It is important to give the franchisors at least a month or two for team preparation, marketing and logistics before they take the field in the league,” the official added.

    Five teams (Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad and Quetta) will contest the first edition, with Karachi expected to be the most expensive franchise followed by their rivals in order as above.

    Banks and sponsors in the fray
    Since the advent of commercialised cricket, banks have been at the forefront of Pakistan’s domestic cricket scene. For the PSL, banks like UBL and Bank Al-Falah are in the fray as possible lead sponsors. The PSL team claims that both have adequate experience, skills and financial resources to successfully leverage the project.

    Premier cricket sponsor in the country, Haier Pakistan, is also committing to a franchise, with CEO Javed Afridi – a regular feature of post-match presentations hosted by the PCB – reportedly eyeing Peshawar, a team of unsung heroes with two successive National T20 trophies to their name.

    “We plan to invest in one team and then collaborate with leagues around the world. Our franchise will be given international exposure,” said Afridi. “We will also bring teams from around the world in our own backyard. Our aim is to contribute to the cause further by convincing foreign players and teams that Pakistan can host top-flight cricket.”

    The businessman was left aggrieved last year when the PCB moved away from handing the rights over to a third-party. Javed believed his consortium was a hair’s breadth away from securing the rights when the plug was pulled.

    “Of course we were dejected after the PCB changed its policy on the PSL but rather than blocking their efforts we want to invest in the project considering its importance for both the game and our nation as a whole,” he added.

    Rawalpindi Express gunning for franchise
    Meanwhile, former fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar has set his eyes on the Islamabad franchise after being impressed by plans put in place for the PSL.

    Shoaib met Sethi recently and spoke about the prospects at length.

    “The PSL team wants to do something to the current and former cricketers of Pakistan by privatising domestic cricket and launching PSL,” said Akhtar. “The most important thing which struck me was the plan of increasing the stakes of domestic cricketers to millions.”

    Shoaib added that he will serve Pakistan cricket by turning his franchise into a breeding ground for future stars of the country. He stressed that the people should give time to Pakistan’s own T20 league as it would take two-three years for it to compete with the best from around the world.

    With local businesses already showing such interest in commercial opportunities within the PSL, it seems the PCB has finally found the formula which can revive the national game without relying on the less and less likely prospect of playing India.

    Add to that the validity associated with star signing such as Kevin Pietersen and Chris Gayle and the backing of Akhtar and it all makes for exciting time within Pakistan cricket.