|PSL at glance. —Photo by AFP/Infographic by Ibtisam Zahid|
The much-blighted Pakistan Super League (PSL) is finally ready for take off in February 2016 and this time its organisers say they are leaving nothing to chance.
A Twenty20 league, following a model similar to the IPL and Big Bash, has been in the works since 2013 but the Pakistan Cricket Board has had to postpone it twice -- in 2014 and 2015 -- over what it said was lack of response from sponsors and logistics issues.
But a team dedicated solely to the PSL project and headed by PCB Executive Committee chief, Najam Sethi, says there is now a strong commercial interest in the tournament and foreign players are lining up to sign up for it.
In an interview with Dawn, Sethi reveals how his team has overcome hurdles, engaged international superstars and the PCB plans to transform domestic cricket with the help of PSL.
Dawn: Will the Pakistan Super League actually materialise this time?
Najam Sethi: We have gained experience from the attempts to develop and launch the PSL. This time Singapore based Repucom, a sports marketing, development and evaluation company of global repute, has partnered with us in developing our financial and logistics approach.
Also, we have equipped the PSL Secretariat with a group of strong professionals, who bring international sports marketing and management, international Cricket Operations experience, Project Management experience, as well as experience in the areas of Finance, Marketing and PR.
Dawn: There has been a lot of talk about PSL's proposed venue, Doha, Qatar. Do you really think it is the ideal stage for a cricket tournament?
NS: Qatar has an equipped Cricket Stadium where some matches of international quality have been played, and the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) will be upgrading the facility for the PSL. A list of requirements has been shared with them. Qatar has a subcontinental presence of nearly two million blue and white collar cricket loving workers, who are waiting for the PSL to land. The QOC and the government has welcomed us with open arms. However, if the UAE becomes available as a venue before we finally sign up with Qatar, we may remain in the UAE.
Dawn: How do you think hosting a domestic tournament abroad will help Pakistan cricket?
NS: It is not just about cricket. It is much more than that.
Our top domestic players will be exposed to international standard dressing room environments which ultimately means better fitness and playing standards in Pakistan. There will be a greater commercial interest in the PCB brand which will result in better player remunerations.
We want Pakistanis to own a product that they will be proud of wherever they go.
Dawn: What is the commercial interest in the PSL? How have sponsors and potential franchise owners reacted?
NS: They are eager to join us. We are currently engaged with around 10-15 parties and we are confident that the Pakistani corporate sector will come forward and own the biggest product of Pakistan.
Dawn: How does a franchisee make money out of the PSL?
NS: They get a share out of our revenue streams. The PSL makes money out of broadcast rights, sponsorship rights, apparel rights, and ticket sales. The franchises get a share out of this central pool.
In addition to this, each franchise sells its own sponsorship rights. For example, shirt logos. They make money out of that.
The financials apart, look at each team as a product. You see these big corporate entities launching products and spending on building that product up. With this product, their investment will probably be one-tenth of their annual marketing budgets. Their returns will be priceless.
Dawn: Will there be a player auction similar to the IPL and CPL?
NS: We have made sure that we do not discriminate between foreign and Pakistani players, so you will see our top players making money at par with top international players.
We are going ahead with a draft process to select players for each team, like you see in the CPL.
Each team will get its turn to pick – based on balloting. These teams will pick a certain number of players for each of the five categories. In addition to this, we have a salary spending cap of roughly $ 1 million per team.
This will ensure that one team does not get to pick all the top players just because it has a heavy purse. Each team will have a minimum of 12 local and four foreign players.
Dawn: Are the international players convinced?
NS: We have signed consent forms from over 100 international players from 9 different countries. I can confirm that we have a core of top T20 specialists from these countries.
We also have consent forms from 17 international coaches. These are coaches who have won World Cups and big T20 leagues. We are currently engaging with top match officials and these officials will pair up with Pakistani match officials.