The reality of professional sports is that it is a highly competitive business aimed at maximising profits. But the last 12 months have been anything but successful for Pakistan cricket. Barring the T-20 World Cup victory in June 2009, Pakistan cricket has struggled on and off the field. The lack of opportunities to host a home series has added to the financial woes of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
But in all this gloom there is a ray of hope. The recent controversy with the IPL player auction should in fact be seen as an opportunity to make a legitimate attempt to launch an internationally recognised Pakistan Premier League (PPL). Of course the issue of playing at home remains a problem and this is where the global nature of the sport can assist. Pakistan has been “hosting” games at neutral venues (currently the T-20 games against England in Dubai and hosting Australia for a test series later this year in England), and this tradition can continue for the PPL too.
The advantages of hosting the PPL outside of Pakistan are multi-fold. The PPL teams would be sponsored by medium to large Pakistani and foreign multinationals, therefore providing exposure for brands in foreign markets. Playing in places like Abu Dhabi and Dubai means large South Asian expatriate crowds at the stadium. For the participating teams this is an opportunity to include players from other countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, thereby increasing the ticket sales (and merchandise sales) amongst the Afghani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan fans. The TV deal will ensure that the games are broadcast live into Pakistan and other countries thereby guaranteeing large sums of desperately needed cash for the PCB. For fans wishing to travel to the stadiums, special deals by the Pakistani airlines will provide a boost to the ailing aviation industry in Pakistan. Thinking long term, if cricket returns to Pakistan, the PPL can hopefully bring loyal fans from other countries to Pakistan and this would again help the local economy through tourism. And if the conditions in Pakistan do not improve enough for cricket to return then it provides an opportunity to host the next instalment of the PPL in other countries in Asia, Europe or North America.
All of this will only be possible if the concerned authorities take a long-term view and position and market the PPL effectively. Interested in your thoughts so over to you.