The sixth edition of cricket' newest format did face the challenge of being staged alongside the biggest event on the planet, but it had a few things going for it – namely two new franchises from across the Atlantic.
New York Strikers and Morrisville Samp Army are established names in the nascent American cricket market and ventured out of the continent for the first time.
And it has turned out to be a dream start for both franchises. Strikers and Samp Army finished first and second in the group phase of the T10 tournament. The Strikers made it all the way to the final, where the ultimately lost to Deccan Gladiators by 37 runs on Sunday.
The New York team, owned by Sagar Khanna, won six out of seven games in the opening round to make an immediate mark on the tournament. Captained by veteran Kieron Pollard and bolstered by franchise cricket stars Rashid Khan, Eoin Morgan and Paul Stirling, the Strikers seemed to have found the perfect recipe for success on the field.
For any franchise, good results off the pitch are just as important for the long-term viability. It definitely helps to be a part of a business that is already attractive. Last season, the league's total economic impact was valued at $621.2 million, while the tournament reached 342 million television and over-the-top (OTT) digital viewers. Also, Abu Dhabi T10's sponsorship value rose by 81 per cent to $279.3 million last season.
Judging by those numbers, the future looks bright for Abu Dhabi T10 and a new franchise like New York Strikers.
The American team paid a franchise fee of $750,000, while player fees cost $400,000. One of the major sources of income for franchises is a share of the central pool, which includes Abu Dhabi T10 broadcast rights, ticket sales, advertisements and sponsorship. But the teams themselves need to build their source of revenue to grow their base. The Strikers are aware of the task at hand.
"We are trying to build a brand and by next year, I think we should break even," Khanna told The National.
"We are here to add value to the competition, not just fill in the numbers. After an incredible run in the United States, we are now expanding.
"Our main focus is to ensure that our players have the best opportunities and that our sponsors compensate them well."
Khanna realises that to stay competitive on the economic front, being pragmatic pays off.
"We are working hard to ensure that New York Strikers has one of the best merchandise reach for all cricket fans. Apart from sponsorship, we are leaving no stone unturned in focusing on franchising costs because, at the end of the day, your brand must be monetised."
Helping Khanna and the Strikers in their mission is Salman Hanif, who is their advisor. Hanif provides expertise in cricket operations in the UAE. He is Dubai Sports City's head of cricket business and is also associated with International League T20 – the UAE's own franchise T20 tournament that will begin early next year.
"Mr Hanif is our advisor and consultant guide who helps us understand how and where to improve. He is an expert who bring in a lot of experience as he has also been involved with the Asia Cup."
One of the reasons international entities are looking to UAE cricket market – be it through Abu Dhabi T10 or the new ILT20 – is the proximity to India's market and also the entry of IPL owners such as Reliance Industries and Knight Riders in UAE's franchise cricket sector.
"We are looking to sign a deal with a leading branding in the Gulf and Indian region. Hopefully we will close the deal before the end of the year," Khanna said.