THE heads of the Indian Premier League’s Kolkata Knight Riders and Pakistan Super League’s Multan Sultans have hinted about investing in the Hundred.
Reacting to a recent British news story, the Kolkata Knight Riders’ chief has said it would “evaluate” proposals to invest in the Hundred, which was shelved this year due to the pandemic.
The Telegraph had on Tuesday (5) quoted KKR CEO Venky Mysore saying that the franchise “will surely be keen to explore” investment opportunities in England and Wales Cricket Board’s 100-ball cricket tournament.
Owned by Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment group, the two-time IPL champions had in 2015 acquired Caribbean Premier League side Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel, which are now known as Trinbago Knight Riders, a winner of successive CPL titles in 2017 and 2018.
KKR had also acquired a third team, the Cape Town franchise in Cricket South Africa’s Global T20 league, which was cancelled in 2017.
Asked about plans to invest in the Hundred, Mysore said: “I know this story is going around. All I said was ‘if we are approached to consider investing in ‘The Hundred’, we will evaluate it’.
“We are the biggest brand in IPL and perhaps the only global brand in cricket. So we can understand why leagues around the world would be interested in getting Knight Riders on board.”
A brainchild of the ECB, the Hundred will be 100-balls-per-side format and will be played by eight franchises rather than the established 18 first-class counties.
It was slated for a July start but only to be pushed till 2021 with ECB grappling in financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to ECB chief executive Tom Harrison, the board was slated to incur a loss of over £300 million, if the upcoming season gets wiped out due to the pandemic.
The “financial turbulence” had to “a re-evaluation in the ECB’s stance” regarding private investment in the Hundred, noted The Telegraph.
The board had initially been against it. “Maybe coronavirus and the financial impact forces us to look at some of those opportunities,” Harrison had said as the Hundred was postponed.
The daily quoted Mysore saying that KKR’s “strategy has always been to look at opportunities to invest in cricket globally”
“I think leagues are also realising the value of having investors such as us who bring our brand, professional management, marketing ideas and huge fan base,” he added.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Super League franchise Multan Sultans’ co-owner Ali Khan Tareen told ESPN Cricinfo that he would be happy to invest in the Southern Brave team representing Hampshire and Sussex counties the Hundred.
Tareen told the website that he was a “Hampshire boy who loves Hampshire cricket”.
“What I suggest is they find people not to own and run teams, but to contribute financially to them because they care about a team or have connections to that area,” he said.
“The counties are the main stakeholders from this and they need to benefit from the Hundred. With more money, they could benefit cricket in their region. The spirit of the investors needs to be that of benefactors, not profiteers.”
Tareen said investing in a team did not necessarily mean owning or controlling it.
“As a Hampshire fan, to be a 10 per cent owner, have a board seat, travel with the team, give your own input, is a massive attraction,” he said.
The Ikon group that runs the Caribbean Premier League is also said to be interested in the Hundred.
“Like any commercial opportunity in sport, we’d be very interested in having a look at it,” Pete Russell, a partner at Ikon, told The Telegraph. “100 per cent we would be interested. If the projected financial impact Covid-19 is going to have on all sports becomes a reality, then this route would seem to make a lot of sense for the ECB.”
Analysts believe private investment in the Hundred, like in in the case of the Indian Premier League, could mark a paradigm shift, and change the ECB’s financial dynamics.
“I think there will be some form of private investment in cricket in England in the near future,” said Jon Long, the former head of strategy for the International Cricket Council. “The practical challenge will be to determine what is for sale? Where will the counties fit in? How would private ownership sit with the purpose of The Hundred which — like the Big Bash — is primarily about new fans and engagement rather than revenue?”