Fears have emerged over a possible split in world cricket after it was revealed that the Essel Group, the company behind the defunct Indian Cricket League (ICL), has begun registering companies with names that appear to run in competition with national cricket boards.
UK newspaper The Guardian said that the International Cricket Council (ICC) is aware of the issue, with its board having discussed the matter at a meeting last week. During the meeting, it was revealed an employee of pay-television broadcaster Ten Sports, which operates in the Indian subcontinent and is a subsidiary of Essel’s Zee Entertainment Enterprise, had registered various website names related to possible breakaway organisations, such as ‘worldcricketcouncil.co.in.’
Cricket Australia in December was the first body to have been alerted over the issue and has since objected to the registration of Australia Cricket Council Limited by the subsidiary Essel Corporation Mauritius. New Zealand Cricket has also undertaken similar proceedings against the registration of New Zealand Cricket Limited, Kiwi Cricket limited and Aotearoa Cricket Limited by the same firm. The latter moniker refers to the Maori name for the country.
A number of other website names, such as ‘cricketassociationofengland.co.in’, have been registered. Essel established the breakaway ICL in 2007 but the league was only able to enjoyed limited success and collapsed in 2009. Ten Sports serves as the host broadcaster for home international matches played by the West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The latest movement in regards to the registration of new website names has led to concerns that Essel is preparing for another breakaway league. In response, the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), led by outgoing chairman, Giles Clarke, has written to the boards of each nation in partnership with Ten Sports to clarify their position.
“We don’t know the motives behind these registrations and need to know more. In the absence of any proper explanation, there is clearly a concern for cricket and the ECB,” an ECB spokesperson told The Guardian.
“Ten Sports are not a partner of the ECB so we’ve asked our colleagues at boards with whom there’s a direct relationship to help in clarifying this situation with their broadcast partner. At this stage, until we know more, there’s nothing more we can add.”
A Cricket Australia spokesman added: “We’re certainly aware of the registration. It is a concern but the ICC has been informed and the matter is being investigated. It’s difficult to say more until we have more information.”