The England and Wales Cricket Board has been urged to open up the Hundred to private investment – including equity stakes for counties and even Indian Premier League team owners – in response to the coronavirus crisis.
An ECB board meeting on Wednesday will discuss the tournament’s postponement until next summer but Tom Harrison, the chief executive, has countered talk of a full cancellation by stressing its importance to English cricket has been “accelerated” by the pandemic.
Under the terms of the Hundred, which is owned by the ECB, each of the 18 first-class counties were to receive £1.3m per year from the tournament, with host venues also due £65,000 per match, 30% of ticket sales and hospitality revenues.
But though initial instalments made up part of the £61m rescue package provided by the ECB last month, there are no guarantees the full amounts for 2020 will be paid. Harrison has also warned the sport could lose “well in excess of £300m” if no cricket is staged this year.
This has led Oakwell Sports Advisory, a consultancy group that lists the Premiership Rugby investors CVC among its clients, to recommend turning central payments to the counties from the Hundred into equity stakes and potentially opening it up to private investment more widely.
In a report entitled The Impact of Covid-19 on English Cricket, Oakwell states: “The ECB should consider converting its revenue distributions [in the Hundred] to counties into equity stakes and gifting these to each county. Therefore each Hundred franchise would own its revenue distribution % as an equity stake too.
“This has real capital value for a county. This will attract potential private capital into buying stakes in Hundred franchises and help counties fund the overall game.”
Oakwell also states more should be done to attract leading Indian players to the Hundred. The BCCI is yet to allow such as Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to join overseas Twenty20 leagues but investment from IPL franchise owners could change this.
The report added: “The Hundred needs to be able to attract Indian players and subsequently an Indian fanbase, too. The Indian subcontinent constitutes 90% of the 1bn cricket fans aged 16-69 globally.
“Indian investment into the Hundred, including from IPL team owners, may facilitate the involvement of Indian players in the longer term. In addition to generating revenue out of India, this would be vital in unlocking the south-Asian UK-based fanbase.”
The ECB rejected a private franchise model for Twenty20 in 2008 and on creating the Hundred opted to follow Cricket Australia’s approach to the Big Bash League by retaining full ownership of the eight teams; whether the post-coronavirus climate forces a rethink remains to be seen.