Previous Editions

Sports occupy a unique place in the public psyche. In the past, the outcomes of the sport were published and analysed in newspapers, magazines, books, TV shows, and radio programmes but generated only less cash than many other sectors. But today, in the era of globalisation, where the entire world is interconnected, the industries under the roof of sports in general and professional leagues, in particular, are expanding at a very rapid pace as professional leagues offer financial benefits to players, governments, boards, the general public, and investors. The determinants of its growth include the interest of the public, attraction of celebrities, and sponsorship of multinationals, and rising returns to investors.

Like other sports events, cricket tournaments have grown in popularity in the expanding world of athletic activities. According to Ray, the T20 format has transformed the game from a gentleman’s game, where spectators were discouraged from attending Test cricket because of the format’s slowness and the fact that they had to wait days for a result, which in most cases resulted in no result, to a fast-paced, enjoyable match that is full of joy like T20 leagues, which is full of spark and excitement for the audience. But, for the investors, the biggest attraction of these leagues is the returns that franchise owners and cricketing boards are getting from their investments. The idea of the cricket Super League was pitched by the Indian Premier League back in 2007 which was supported by ICC and administered by BCCI, and replicated by PCB in 2015 as the Pakistan Super League (PSL) which was a great success not only for the investors but for the entire economy as well.

In addition to their financial motivations, these leagues provide entertainment value. Numerous celebrities serve as brand ambassadors for various teams and frequently show up at the stadium to support their side. Football, a sport, is closely associated with well-known personalities such as supporters and emissaries. As a result, fans are drawn to the stadiums to enjoy the event and meet and greet their favorite players and superstars. To make the tournament even more spectacular, singers create anthems, and acts are combined. As a result, everyone involved benefits to the fullest extent possible, including the sponsoring businesses, actors, singers, national, local, and international athletes, and of course the fans so there is no doubt in the fact that it is a win-win situation for everybody.

So, there is no doubt in the fact that the profit these cricket boards and franchise owners receive from their investments are the main draws of these leagues where central pools and sponsorships, managed by the national cricket boards, derive immense funding for each cricket league. Although, the team owners endure losses in the initial seasons of leagues but retaining ownership of teams is telling the other side of the story and highlights long-term benefits for its owners. The professional leagues not only demand investment in terms of money but also it is an investment in terms of time. Like massive investments in franchises and the hiring of professional players, injury prevention programmes also require time and financial investment. The player’s injury prevention programmes are attaining returns for teams because of their quick availability for a match. Therefore, investment in players is gaining returns for the franchises as measured by the costs of the programme and returns for teams.

It is a noticeable fact that almost all franchise owners claimed that they are suffering from losses but none of them shared their data to prove the statement generating lots of questions. It is very surprising that, in a country that is on the verge of default, dependent on the IMF to keep the economy going, and struggling to keep its foreign exchange reserves, where social discontent is becoming more and more prevalent every day, the governmental system has crumbled, and inflation is at an all-time high we manage to have PSL where the stadium is full of crowd. The carnival is in full swing. In the entire journey of PSL, the league established itself as a staple of Pakistani cricket as well as a cultural icon that captures the attention of the country once a year. This journey is not easy as the country confronts many challenges during the entire phase but the rising demand challenges the challenge in the form of a league at UAE to Pakistan. Not only has the PSL produced some of the brightest stars of Pakistan cricket, it has almost single-handedly paved the way for the return of international cricket to Pakistan. More significantly, it has grown to be a successful organisation that enjoys the backing of all elected officials. It has mostly been apolitical and undisturbed by administrative shifts.

The tournament’s development and success are witnessed through the cost of rights of franchises where, Karachi Kings cost $2.6 million annually, as the most costly franchise when the PCB originally sold the rights to the league. The team of Multan Sultans added a second high-cost team two years later when the franchise was sold for an astounding $5.2 million. A year later, the Multan Sultans franchise saw another ownership shift, this time for $6.35 million annually so, the rising cost of franchises disclosed the returns of investors where the credit of success goes to the four stakeholders of the event i.e. the cricket board, the sponsors, the franchise owners, and most importantly the fans. Sponsors like HBL extended its contract for the title sponsorship of the league until 2025 for $22.5 million, simultaneously, the team owners have demonstrated a strong desire to continue making their required payments even if they lost money during the initial phases. Hence, the excellent cricket on show is what draws viewers and broadcasters back for more.

There is no doubt in the fact that in addition to reconstructing our cricket infrastructure since 2009, we have also succeeded in creating an establishment that will hopefully endure and continue to be a premier event on Pakistan’s calendar which requires constant hard work by the state and stakeholders to stay attracted by the investors that not only generates profit for them but foster our economy by leaving some positive footprints and heel the scars of our deprived economy.

The Author is MD IRP/Faculty Department of H&SS, Bahria University Karachi