Covid hits the finances of world cricket hard

If the T20 World Cup is postponed or cancelled, ICC revenues will take a beating and affect numerous member boards severely.

The ICC meeting scheduled for 10 June 2020 could well prove to be the watershed moment for world cricket in general and the conduct of the 13th edition of the IPL in particular.

The fate of the T20 World Cup, which is to start from 18 October 2020, lingers in the balance. With hosts Australia closing their borders due to Covid-19 till almost the end of September, the administrative challenges of conducting a tournament of this scale within a month of opening the country up may make it a dreadful task.

Sixteen teams are scheduled to participate in the T20 World Cup. Given the current global pandemic, managing logistics of the event would be a stupendous task for Cricket Australia.

The organising board will have to detail a quarantine plan for each team from before the start of the tournament, and also a schedule how each team will be kept in isolation from other groups during the entire course of the month-long tournament.

Countering the threat of a player or support staff testing positive for the virus, contingency measures to be adopted if that were to happen and mitigating the risk of such an occurrence impacting the image of the tournament, are some of the matters that the organising board and the ICC will have to deliberate upon.

The ICC revenue share payout that has to happen to member cricket boards in September is another matter to be decided upon in the meeting. Unlike the big three, a lot of other cricket boards around the world are dependent on the ICC revenue share for running their cricket operations. If the T20 World Cup 2020 is postponed/cancelled, ICC revenues will take a hit and numerous member boards could feel the repercussions.

Another difficulty is that another edition of the T20 World Cup is planned in 2021. Holding a T20 World Cup in Feb 2021 in Australia and another in Nov 2021 in India will attenuate the importance of the event.

Moreover, there is also the unresolved matter of Tax issues between the ICC and the BCCI. ICC had asked the BCCI to get clearances from the Indian government regarding tax exemption for the event planned in 2021. Given the current Covid-19 pandemic, the BCCI had requested for an extension from ICC on the matter, till 30 June. Those matters could come to a head in the meeting.

If this year’s edition is postponed to next year and there is only 1 event held, a decision on who would host that T20 World Cup event in 2021, could be forthcoming in the meeting as well. Remember, according to the ICC’s agreement with the broadcaster, two ICC tournaments must be held in India during the Future Tours Program (FTP) ICC calendar from (2018-2023).

Postponement of the T20 World Cup from its scheduled dates of 18 October to15 November 2020, will open up a window for conducting the IPL during that period and foreign players will also be available as per the current FTP for the tournament.

According to some business estimates already published in the media, the cost of cancelling the IPL 2020 to BCCI could be close to Rs 3,900 crore, including loss of broadcast and streaming revenues and central sponsorship revenues. So the downside of not having an IPL season for BCCI is immense.

Moreover, IPL has the potential to provide a jump-start to the economy. It is not just a sporting event. It provides work opportunities to many, including freelancers, and impacts various industries. Advertising, Media & Broadcasting are the immediate beneficiaries, but there are other spin-offs as well — travel, hotel, F&B, merchandising, etc.

Yes, without allowing spectators inside stadiums, gate proceeds of teams will be hit, on-ground promotions will be impacted, and the fabric of how the absence of fan excitement will influence a player’s performance will be re-designed. But the financial upside is hard to ignore — both for players and for business.

This ICC meeting will have a huge impact on not just the FTP and upcoming ICC tournaments’ schedule, but the overall business of cricket!

The writer is a sports broadcaster and cricket commentator who has worked on assignments for leading sports networks in India and abroad.