Race emerging to establish club cricket competition in Europe

An unlikely race is emerging to establish a club cricket competition in Europe after two new events were launched within the space of a few weeks of each other.

The cricket boards of Scotland, the Netherlands and Ireland announced yesterday that they have reached an agreement to form a European Twenty20 league featuring two city-based franchise teams from each of the three countries. The event, which will be held from August 30 to September 22, will see the six teams play 30 group stage matches followed by the semi-finals and a final.

The new concept has been developed by GS Holding Inc. and Woods Entertainment in consultation with the International Cricket Council. Further details about the new tournament, including its name and the venues, have yet to be announced.

The news follows the launch in February of the European Cricket League (ECL), a T10 event featuring the domestic champions of the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Romania, Russia and Spain. The inaugural ECL, which takes place at the La Manga resort in Spain, from July 29-31 will pit the eight club teams against each other in two groups of four followed by a semi-final and final.

The latter tournament has been hailed as cricket’s equivalent to the Uefa Champions League, having secured investment from former Team Marketing executives Thomas Klooz and Frank Leenders. Fifa’s former director of broadcasting Roger Feiner is the chief executive of the new league having been persuaded, like Leenders and Klooz, there are untapped opportunities for cricket in continental Europe by tournament founder Australian Daniel Weston.

Although Europe has not traditionally been a strong market for cricket, Weston believes mass migration has created new audiences for the sport as cricket enthusiasts from cricketing hotbeds such as India and Afghanistan have moved to the continent.

Weston, a player for the German national team and a former hedge fund manager, developed the ECL concept after posting videos of the German national cricket team on Facebook. The videos of the German team’s T20 and 50-over matches generated over 52 million views over the course of 2017.

The ECL organisers have subsequently signed 25-year rights agreements with the eight national federations whose club sides are competing in the ECL. It’s unclear whether the new European Twenty20 league has been developed in response to the ECL, although it’s noteworthy that club sides and Scotland and Ireland were not invited to take part in the inaugural ECL competition.

The major difference between the two tournaments is that the European Twenty20 is based on a franchise model and will create new teams over the existing club infrastructure in Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands. The ECL will take the existing champions from domestic leagues around Europe.

The ECL is now on the ICC’s approved list of events after it was approved by Cricket Espanã.

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