Wednesday, January 20, 2021

New American Cricket League Aims to Enter World’s Largest Sports Market

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A group of more than a dozen high profile investors, including Microsoft chief Satya Nadella and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, are supporting a new Twenty20 US cricket tournament in a bid to propel the model to success of the Indian Premier League in the world’s largest sports market.

Other investors investing in the Major League Cricket tournament, the first of its kind and slated to launch in 2022, include Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, Vijay Shekhar Sharma of Indian start-up Paytm and the Texas real estate mogul Ross Perot Jr, said people familiar with the matter.

Most have made personal investments in American Cricket Enterprises, which will lead the league. Mr. Sharma is putting in $ 1 million, according to one of the people.

Mr Khan, one of India’s biggest movie stars, announced an investment last week through his Knight Riders Group, which manages IPL’s Kolkata franchise and a Caribbean Premier League team. He is set to lead one of the six expected teams of Major League Cricket, the Los Angeles Knight Riders.

“It’s like Bollywood meets Hollywood,” Venky Mysore, managing director of Knight Riders, told the Financial Times. “We went and were able to add a lot of value to different leagues. . . it made a lot of sense to be part of it.

The individual investments were first reported by The Times of India.

Founded in 2008, the IPL formula of high octane and high scoring matches has become money spinner. It has spawned similar leagues elsewhere that draw major global players from the Caribbean to Australia’s Big Bash to the even shorter format “The Hundred”, soon to be launched In England.

The IPL has proven profitable for franchisees thanks to an exceptional media rights deal with Star India, now owned by Disney, which paid $ 2.6 billion in 2017 for five years. According to EY, the consultancy firm, the tournament’s media rights are close to those of the English Premier League per game.

But cricket has a limited audience outside of countries with ties to the former British Empire. Past attempts to generate interest in the United States – including a series of 2015 baseball stadium exhibition matches hosted by retired cricket legends Shane Warne of Australia and India Sachin Tendulkar – were largely unsuccessful.

Nonetheless, U.S. cricket executives say diasporas in cricket-loving countries, especially the 4 million-strong Indian-American community, will support franchises in centers like Dallas, San Francisco and New York.

Mr. Nadella, born in India, for example, is a former amateur spin melon and long-time sports enthusiast.

They also claim that the T20 game’s length of around three hours, considerably shorter than other forms of play and often packed with cheerleaders and upbeat music, will resonate with American audiences.

“The T20 format works really well for us. . . It’s obviously a more exciting version of the game, ”said Paraag Marathe, president of USA Cricket and chief soccer operations for the San Francisco 49ers NFL team. “Since we have a corollary with IPL, it’s easy to see what success might look like.”

Mr. Nadella and Mr. Sharma declined to comment. MM. Narayen and Perot did not respond to requests for comment.

“Cricket hasn’t really worked before in the [United] States, ”said Simon Hughes, a former cricketer and broadcaster who recently co-wrote a book on the IPL. “It won’t be easy, but there is potential. . . They will have seen the benefits of IPL. “

Additional reporting by Richard Waters in San Francisco

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