A league to rival the IPL? Saudi Arabia proposes plan to IPL owners
It seems there is no end to new leagues sprouting in the money-driven T20 market. Even as mushrooming of latest competitions in UAE, South Africa and USA further leads the game to a saturation point, the T20 universe is about to welcome a new member in the family.
This time it is the wealthy power flexors of Saudi Arabia that are eyeing a league that can attract similar affluence to that of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The Middle East could reportedly have one more league entering its parlance. According to the Australian-based 'The Age', Saudi Arabia has offered billion-dollar IPL corporate giants an opportunity to set up the world's richest T20 league, rivalling the financial muscle of the IPL.
After investing in sports such as Football and Formula 1, the gulf country has its eyes set on cricket and specifically, the IPL, which remains the envy of the rest of the globe as the cash-cow property of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
T20 league in Saudi Arabia to rival the IPL?
As things stand, the BCCI has managed to keep any form of rivalry to the IPL at bay given the right it reserves to the famed Indian stars and the powers it enjoys over the rest of the cricketing world. The BCCI tends to get the itinerary it wants with other boards, who depend for their survival on Indian trips, and bars Indian representation in leagues outside its own.
That, however, could change after a proposal from the Saudi Arabian government for a new T20 league to be set up in their territory. The Age even reported that the talks between BCCI and the Saudi authorities have been going since a year on this front and things can materialise soon.
"Our aim is to create a sustainable industry for locals and expats living in the Kingdom and make Saudi Arabia a global cricketing destination," Arab News quoted Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation chairman Prince Saud bin saying last month.
The report further opened up the lid of the Saudi government and sporting authorities' presence in India's cricketing activities over the past few weeks, especially with the IPL 2023, with the intention to keep the BCCI and IPL owners in the loop about their ambitious plans for a new T20 league that can rival with the riches of India's home-grown league.
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Any such league would require the approval of the International Cricket Council (ICC), which would sanction the tournament. But that shall be no issue, given the ICC has been keen for the sport to spread its wings in the Middle East market.
"If you look at other sports they've been involved in, cricket is something I imagine would be attractive to them," ICC chairman Greg Barclay had said. "Given their advance into sport more generally, cricket would work quite well for Saudi Arabia."
"They're pretty keen to invest in sport, and given their regional presence, cricket would seem a pretty obvious one to pursue," he added.
In plans other than the T20 league are also potentially staging an annual Asia Cup in Saudi and the opening match or a round of IPL matches being held there.