Cricket to have multi-city league in Canada

December 25th, 2008 - 2:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Dec 25 (IANS) Cricket, which once was the official sport of Canada, has staged a major comeback in the past 12 months.The Canadian government had recognized cricket as a national sport, with promises of federal funding. Under its new governing body, Cricket Canada, the sport attracted top banks and corporates as sponsors.

Thanks to sponsorships by Scotiabank, Canada staged its first T20 national league in May and the Scotiabank triangular series featuring West Indies, Bermuda and the hosts in August.

In October, it staged the world’s first Twenty20 Canada Cup quadrangular series featuring Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and the hosts.

“This is just the beginning. Like the National Hockey League (NHL) in North America, we now plan a multi-city league to take cricket to the masses,” Canada Cricket CEO Atul Ahuja told IANS.

He said: “Cricket Canada has a five-year strategic plan to take the sport to the grass-roots. We want to introduce a multi-city franchise professional league - on the lines of the National Hockey League (NHL) in North America.

“Discussions are under way and we are keen that we play this league in the winter months in an indoor arena. We know we can present a world-class league for our spectators and global TV viewers.”

The Cricket Canada CEO said money won’t be a problem as more and more sponsors want to jump on to the cricket bandwagon after the success of their events this year.

Corporate sponsorships, he said, have helped change the face of Canadian cricket. “When I took over in 2007, I straightway chose to drive change in key areas like corporate sponsorship, spectator-driven events, year-round training, and bring ICC full-member nations to play here.

“For the first time in Canadian cricket, we got corporate sponsorship when Scotiabank signed for a three-year contract to become our national sponsor.”

In addition to senior and junior championships, Cricket Canada hosted four ICC full-member countries (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies, and Zimbabwe) and two ICC associate member countries (Ireland and Bermuda) this year.

“Global TV coverage of these tournaments put Canada on the world cricket map. No other country hosted six ICC members or four ICC full members this year,” Ahuja said.

He said their thrust is to make cricket a Canadian sport by taking it to every elementary school in the next five years.

“We will be hosting the Under-19 World Cup in 2012 and this will be an opportunity for Canada to be counted as ‘grown up’ on the world stage - both from governance and performance standpoints. Currently, we are focusing on our Under-15 squad to be counted as winning nation by 2012,” he said.

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