UAE T20x can succeed elsewhere despite cancellation, says organiser

Salman Sarwar Butt, chief executive of OPi Sports, explains circumstances leading to tournament's annulment, but believes it is unique enough to develop elsewhere

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 03 JULY 2018. Salman Sarwar Butt, the CEO of the new Emirates T20 league, at the ICC Academy in Sports City. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Paul Radley. Section: Sport.
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Salman Sarwar Butt, the chief executive of the management company organising the UAE T20x, believes the concept can succeed elsewhere, despite its pilot event in UAE being cancelled.

The new 20-overs competition had been set to start next month, with some of the world's leading players, such as Eoin Morgan, David Miller, Andre Russell, Shahid Afridi and Kumar Sangakkara, signed up to play.

However, the decision was made on Wednesday to discontinue plans for the tournament, just five days ahead of a draft that over 500 players worldwide had registered for.

Only two franchises – those of which would have represented Dubai and Sharjah – out of the five due to compete had been bought.

The Emirates Cricket Board is understood to have been increasingly concerned about the commercial viability of the tournament, given there are just 34 days until it was due to start.

As per the terms of the auction scheduled for next Monday, players such as Steve Smith, the former Australia captain, could have earned as much as Dh1million.

The five stars who had already been recruited as “icon players”, as well as non-playing ambassador, were paid part of their contracts for promotional duties ahead of the tournament.

The next part was due to be paid once they were assigned a franchise, after Monday’s draft. "We disengage at this point in time," Butt said.


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Butt, who is the chief executive of OPi Sports, the company organising the tournament on ECB’s behalf, cited a delay in a ruling to be made by the International Cricket Council, as part of the reason for the discontinuation of the league.

The ICC had signalled its intention to limit the number of leagues players can play in worldwide last summer, but a final decision on that was then deferred to next March.

“We had less time to get the commercial values in, because we did wait for the ICC to come out with their regulations of proliferation, and that didn’t happen,” Butt said.

“We had to hold back on quite a few of our initiatives. Thereafter, we were able to get two franchises, in Dubai and Sharjah, successfully bid.

“Then we were on our way to solicit more, and complete the other three, but I guess time was against us. Therefore we had to make a call.”

More than 120 players from beyond the Test sphere, including 30 from the UAE, had been listed for the draft.


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The competition was set to give players from emerging cricket countries a greater platform than most others of its ilk.

Three places in each of the five franchise squads were going to be reserved for UAE players, with three more set aside for players from other Associate countries.

Butt believes that set the competition apart from other “clutter” in an increasingly packed market for franchise leagues, and is confident the idea could work elsewhere.

“It is a sad thing that we are not going to continue with this concept in UAE, but I think T20x is a great concept,” Butt said.

“It really does a lot for the development of cricket, and it stands out from the clutter of other T20 events. As a product, it is a wonderful, wonderful product. It is a pity we had to go this way.

“[Taking the event somewhere else] is definitely something we are considering.”