The owners of Manchester United will take their first steps into cricket after acquiring one of the franchises in the new UAE T20 league.
The six-team competition, to be known as Premier League T20, is scheduled to launch in February and March of 2022.
The organisers have confirmed one of the teams have been purchased by Lancer Capital, whose chairman is Avram Glazer, the co-chairman of Manchester United and owner of NFL franchise Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I am very excited to be a part of UAE T20 at its formation,” Glazer was quoted as saying. “UAE T20 promises to be a world class event that will be transformative to the growth of cricket in the Emirates.”
Last month it was announced Reliance Industries, the owners of the Indian Premier League’s most successful side, Mumbai Indians, had acquired the rights to another of the UAE league’s teams.
That was said to be the company’s “first major overseas expansion of Reliance Industries’ cricket operations in the global franchise-based cricket leagues”.
For their part, the Glazer family had attempted to invest in the IPL. The world’s most lucrative T20 league is set to expand from eight teams to 10 next season. The Glazers were involved in the bidding process for the two new franchises, but were unsuccessful.
Instead, their first involvement in cricket will come in the UAE, in a competition which is set to be played at Dubai International Stadium next year – potentially overlapping with the dates of the Pakistan Super League.
“I am very excited to welcome Mr Glazer to the UAE T20 family,” Khalid Al Zarooni, the vice-chairman of the ECB and Premier League T20 chairman, said.
“To have a partner who has invested into sports properties with a long-term investment perspective is a testament to the strength of the UAE T20 League’s business model and its value proposition to its stakeholders, and an ode to the UAE as the destination of choice for global sports events.”
The tournament will be the first ECB-owned franchise competition, and will start during a season which has been packed with short-format cricket in the UAE.
The season began with the rescheduled IPL taking place in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. That was followed – with just a day’s break in between - by the T20 World Cup.
The Abu Dhabi T10 is currently ongoing at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in the capital, with its final set to take place on December 4.
There are also plans for a new 90-ball format in Sharjah next May and June, to be known as the Ninety-90 Bash.
“Having recently hosted some of the most exciting games in the IPL and T20 World Cup, we have witnessed the growing interest in the shorter format,” Khalaf Bukhatir, the chief executive of Sharjah Stadium, said.
“With the Ninety-90 Bash, we are looking forward to sustaining the momentum and giving cricket fans in the UAE what they want.”