Melbourne:Cricket Australia on Friday approved overseas private investments in its revamped IPL-style Twenty20 tournament from next year, paving the way for Indian companies and individuals to become minority stake holders of the teams.
Announcing the launch of Big Bash Bash Twenty20 League from 2011-12 after the Cricket Australia Board meeting here, CA chief executive James Sutherland said minority private ownership of franchisees has been approved and the process of seeking expressions of interest will start after working out the details.
"The Board has approved investment of minority holdings in each of the respective teams and the details of that will be further contemplated in the coming weeks. It will, over the coming months, consider the terms under which that private investment may take place but the Board is certainly open to that," Sutherland said at a press conference.
"I think it's interesting to see the sort of values one might place on these teams based on the investor interest; certainly compared to other sporting franchises or teams around this country it puts these Big Bash teams at an all new level and as high a value as any sporting team in the country," he said.
Sutherland said various models of private ownership will have to be looked into and details worked out in order to make sure it works for everyone.
"All of the teams may well have private investment, we'll see how things unfold and what expressions of interest may come through in terms of investment, but as a matter of principle the board has approved minority holdings as being the level of investment they will permit.
"There are certainly opportunities (from private investors) on the table and they are opportunities that will be explored over the coming weeks once we've worked through the detail," said Sutherland who had predicted that the BBL can revolutionise the game just like the Kerry Packer World Series did three decades ago.
Media reports had claimed that Indian companies are waiting to take the plunge by splashing big sums of money in the eight franchisees of BBL once private investment is approved by the CA.
The reports even said that Australia's most powerful cricket states NSW and Victoria will have Indian part-owners as they have already sold shares to giant Indian corporations for around USD 60 million in return for profits from the IPL-type eight-team Twenty20 tournament.
'Daily Telegraph' said Brisbane-based Gautam Adani Group, which lost an IPL bid, is interested in buying stakes in an Australian side for the BBL.
The newspaper said NSW Cricket has set up a separate business entity, known as Blues Inc, to run the state's Twenty20 franchises, and Indian investors want a 49 per cent share of the company and have all but signed off on a figure of USD 30 million.
Another daily, 'The Australian' claimed that NSW had discussions with Jay Mehta, the billionaire co-owner of IPL side Kolkata Knight Riders, about investing in the state's cricket.
It said that both NSW and Victoria have different four-man consortia from India willing to pay millions of dollars to take a minority share-holding in the new Sydney and Melbourne teams.
Desperate to cash in on the Twenty20 gold rush with the advent of the IPL, CA has brought forward its BBL plans by a year but Sutherland said the new league should not be seen as a competitor to the hugely successful Indian Premier League.
"I don't think we see ourselves as a competitor to the IPL (in terms of player earnings) and certainly the revenues that the Cricket Australia Big Bash League can generate. In a small market such as Australia it's not going to be the same as the IPL. But at the same time this league is on the international stage and the teams that play-off in the finals will qualify for the Champions League Twenty20.
"I'd prefer not to go into the specific detail (of which areas are being looked at for the expansion teams) of where we are looking at. We will go through a process of seeking expressions of interest over the coming weeks and we're very interested in talking to people around the country who think it might be appropriate that a team be placed in a certain region," he said.
Giving details of the BBL, Sutherland said, "It will be an eight-team competition, six of which will be coming out of the cities that our current state teams play in. They will be city-based teams, not state-based teams and that will in turn be a real change in format. The two additional teams and the venues of which those two teams play will be decided in due course as we work through the process."
"The competition will be owned, controlled and managed by CA and everyone in Australian cricket is excited about this new Big Bash League; we see it as a fantastic opportunity for the game to grow off the back of the incredible popularity of Twenty20 cricket and to bring new fans to the game of cricket," he said.
Sutherland said the competition would initially be played over five-six weeks period and it could be expanded in future depending on its success.
"At the moment our plans are for the competition to be played through the prime competition summer period in December and January. There are various models that we have talked about that could see an expansion of that competition over a longer period but in the short-term it will be played over a five to six week period through December, January and perhaps creeping into February in some years.
"In the short term we're probably talking about where each team plays seven or eight matches and we've considered, as the competition grows, not only more matches but more teams joining the competition. Perhaps, in three, four or five years' time expanding from an eight-team competition to a 10-team competition," the CA top official said.
Sutherland made it clear that new league will not undermine the importance of other formats of cricket and the famous Boxing Day Test is safe.
"The Boxing Day Test is safe. Our priority rests with international cricket but all of the research we have done very strongly indicates that the enjoyment that people get from the game of cricket can be spread over the three formats of the game or discretely held with one format of the game.
"There are a lot of fans out there that just enjoy Twenty20 cricket and I think that the game of cricket is in a fortunate place in having three successful and popular formats and Twenty20 cricket is certainly one of those formats on the rise," he said.
"It (BBL) is complimentary to what we are doing with international cricket. We've always said that Twenty20 cricket should compliment and not compromise international cricket and that's really the balance that the Board needs to strike in working through fixturing issues. There's certainly no consideration at this stage for any exclusive windows for the Big Bash League," he added.
CA also expects that the league will grow and it will attract foreign players.
"It's another factor of the Big Bash League that it is already an international competition in the qualification for the Champions League, but having international players play in it - mindful of the fact that international players have international playing commitments for their country - there will hopeful be opportunities for international players to play in the league. We expect that will grow as the competition grows in value and passion around the country and around the world."