England wants to host IPL, South Africa on stand-by (Lead)

March 23rd, 2009 - 7:13 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, March 23 (IANS) Indian Premier League (IPL) boss Lalit Modi was expected here Monday amid reports that the English cricket board was ready to stage IPL matches without any disruption to its domestic schedule.

With a number of prickly issues still remaining unresolved - including a potential television rights war between Sky and Setanta, South Africa’s cricket chief said his country would be on stand-by in case England were unable to host the tournament.

“The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is confident that it can play all 59 matches of the IPL - scheduled to run from 10 April to May 24 - on major grounds without altering any fixtures that are already in place,” The Guardian reported Monday without quoting sources.

“The number of IPL matches will not be reduced. However, no franchise would have a homebase,” the newspaper added.

Despite questions over security, television rights and the logistics of moving an entire championship, ECB Chief Executive David Collier sounded optimistic.

“We have had discussions in the last 36 hours. We shall be meeting the representatives of the Indian Premier League and the BCCI and shall be reporting back to the board at the back-end of the week,” he said.

“An early decision has to be made as the tournament would be starting on April 10. We have already had discussions with Sky (television network) about our broadcasting contract with them and will be continuing those,” added Collier, who was flying to London to hold talks with Modi and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Secretary N. Srinivasan.

Gerald Majola, chief executive of Cricket South Africa, said he believed his country was on standby should England not be able to host the competition.

“I must say from my side, I’m not that optimistic. The real reason I say so is the timing,” he said.

“A decision has to be taken shortly. So I suspect they would be speaking to maybe their preferred choice and I think South Africa is just a standby to whoever their choice is,” Majola added.

However, other figures involved in running cricket in England pointed to some major unresolved issues: to begin with, the tournament clashes with the start of the county season and the West Indies’ tour of England.

But the lure of IPL dollars is expected to help persuade administrators to rally to the enormous logistical challenges at hand, cricket observers said.

“Should it be possible to bring the IPL here, I’m sure there will be enormous crowds and a huge amount of interest,” Somerset chairman Andy Nash said.

“Logistically it won’t be simple but if the will is there it can be overcome, I’m sure. Cricket can achieve remarkable things if people work together,” he told BBC radio.

“Once the ECB are aware of the requirements of the BCCI and IPL, they will move heaven and earth to try to accommodate this,” Nash added.

Essex chairman and ECB board member Nigel Hilliard said the biggest issue was security, adding: “Would an Indian operation be a target? We would have to talk to the government… the police.”

Television rights is another problem, with the ECB having a signed a four-year contract worth 300 million pounds with Sky television which has the rights to any new competition.

However, Sky’s sports rival Setanta has a five-year contract with the IPL, including rights to all 59 matches to be played this summer.

London-based cricket commentator Ashis Ray pitched for English venues, citing the presence of 1.75 million Indians, other South Asians, West Indians, South Africans and Australians in Britain.

“Cricket is a spectator sport, not just a television spectacle,” he said.

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