Cricket has been finding increasing popularity in the MENA region for the better part of a decade now, as infrastructure around sport as a whole, has enabled influence to be taken from big international events. This has allowed for the sporting scenes to develop within the UAE, with other big names having already found success through the likes of Formula 1, combat sports with the UFC, and other favourites like horse racing too. It seems the next big sport on the horizon will be cricket, as an announcement has been made to launch a T20 cricket league within the UAE.
Many details around what to expect still remain limited. The league isn’t set to launch until later in the year, as hopes are it can run from December through to January, but there are some factors that have already been cleared up in the initial announcement.
Player salaries – In order to grow the league, big talent will certainly need to be attracted and this is where salaries remain important. The announcement has stated that player salaries will be close to ‘IPL standards’, as the Indian Premier League continues to lead the way for cricket. If similar money can be found, it will certainly be enough to encourage many to give the fledgling league a try.
League setup and model – The other suggestion has been that initially six teams will be involved in the league, which will be modelled after the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Australia’s Big Bash League (BBL), with a great blueprint to follow for the big successful leagues, it can certainly help get things off to a great start.
With Dubai already hosting the end of the 2020 leg for the IPL, as the ongoing pandemic led to competition being forced out of India, the region does have some infrastructure in place to get started too. They also have some understanding of what to expect, as well as a history of hosting test matches for the past decade, as it was once home to Pakistan’s home test matches. With all three tied together, there’s an opportunity for strong footing to be found early avoiding many of the stumbles that may have been found in other leagues learning the ropes along the way. This had also been backed by the Emirates Cricket Board vice chairman, Khalid Al Zarooni, who went on to say “We see this league as another premier addition to our growing tournament calendar. Emirates cricket, and the UAE, has a proven history of identifying and embracing initiatives that underpin the success of the game, as well as encourage and develop homegrown talent” – so there’s certainly a lot of confidence going in too.
What could be the most interesting is how the interaction with other popular markets within cricket are handled, with the most notable being in betting. Particularly as there has been heavy attraction from the Indian audience. There are already existing betting markets that can be found at Arabianbetting.com and similar sites, and with other sporting events in the region such as the UFC bringing big attraction to this area too, some changes to regulation may be needed to support what will eventually emerge alongside the sport.
There should be more announcements to follow within the month. The competitions stake holders are expected to be announced within a month, alongside ownership and other details and modalities will quickly follow. The general secretary for the Emirates Cricket Board had stated that there had already been a lot of interest from a few IPL teams, businessmen from Indian, and from Bollywood stars too, and given that a name still needs to be settled on too, that is still on the cards. Given the way the pandemic was handled in the UAE too, it’s unlikely that there will be any delay to the timeline that sets to get things going before the year is out. It means fans from all over the world will be able to tune in to a new opportunity in international cricket at the highest level and may see new teams packed with extremely strong rosters looking to compete at the highest levels the sport has to offer.