The Euro T20 Slam – the first T20 franchise event to be co-sanctioned by three boards; Full member Ireland, and Associates Netherlands and Scotland – has had its inaugural edition scrapped just over two weeks before the first ball was due to be bowled, it was announced on Wednesday.
After the non-payment of outstanding franchise fees by team owners, any chance of staging a 2019 edition – already badly behind in its planning and logistics, with broadcast arrangements still being finalised, and tickets not yet on sale to the public – was finally extinguished when event owners refused to inject the additional funds required to run the event, according to a well-placed source.
The news comes as the veritable cherry on top of what has been a turbulent fortnight for events across the emerging cricket world: The famous Hong Kong Sixes was cancelled, the HK T20 Blitz is under threat, and player protests over non-payment of salaries threatened the continuation of GT20 Canada. The Euro T20 Slam is owned by the same names behind GT20, albeit on a 10 year contract as opposed to the quarter-century agreement with Cricket Canada.
Many players – a number of whom forewent opportunities in the Caribbean Premier League to sign with the Slam – are understood to be beyond furious at the news; which began as a rumour among those at the ground during the latter stages of the GT20 Canada over the weekend and spread like wildfire since.
The “unforeseen circumstances” quoted in the announcement were non-payment of franchise fees by team owners, according to the well placed source who told Emerging Cricket the event’s cash flow was in a dire position after certain franchises failed to meet their commitment with respect to paying the ~$4m fee. Apparently 25% of the cost of each of the six city-based entities had already been paid, but some owners then failed to remit remaining portions, as had been agreed during sale negotiations.
Reportedly, a total approaching $20m was required to continue with the 2019 event as planned, but organisers were well short of that figure as of yesterday and after owners decided they would not provide any further cash, the Euro T20 Slam Advisory Board made the call to cancel this year’s tournament. The Board includes representatives of owners, promoters and the three boards, as well as coach/pundit Dean Jones and the chairperson of the ICC Cricket Committee Anil Kumble, among others.
Speaking at the event launch in Dublin April 30, Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom talked about the decision to run the event in 2019.
“The easy option, frankly, would have been to kick it down the road for another year, to give us more time for planning and operations. The brave decision was to say ‘we will probably makes mistakes whenever we start, so we might just as well embrace the opportunity while it’s in front of us,'” Deutrom told the gathering, which was live streamed on Facebook.
The words of Deutrom at the launch have appeared to come back to haunt the event, with the commonly (GS Holdings/Woods/Bombay Sports) owned tournaments both being plagued with issues around planning, preparation, and professional courtesies in dealing with suppliers, contractors and players; most of whom only found out from the media release in respect of the Slam’s ‘postponement’; many of whom had turned down other opportunities to be involved with the new tournament.
The situation is an “utter disgrace and debacle rolled into one” according to one professional with extensive experience across a number of major events, and the conduct of tournament organisers was described as “unprofessional” by a number of others who are directly affected.
The news came as a particular shock to certain individuals who were still receiving instructions regarding preparations from the event and franchise owners only hours before the announcement.
Organisers still see a future for the Slam
Prashant Mishra, on behalf of the Board, said the decision was made “to ensure that the inaugural staging of the Euro T20 Slam provides the best springboard to making this a truly flagship event on the global cricket calendar. As such, we believe the right course of action is to postpone the Slam to a further date. This will give us the necessary breathing space to ensure we are ready to go.”
Gurmeet Singh is the man behind the Slam’s – and Cricket Ireland partner – G.S. Holdings and the GT20 Canada’s Bombay Sports Company. Alongside Mishra, of Woods Entertainment, both men were also instrumental in the staging of Global T20 2018, an event which lost around $13m in its first of a 25 year contract to establish professional T20 cricket in Canada.
Warren Deutrom, Chief Executive of Cricket Ireland, said of the Slam announcement: “We are deeply disappointed with the decision, however, fully empathise with the rationale that has led to the tournament’s postponement.”
In a firm riposte, indicative of how important the Euro T20 Slam is to Cricket Ireland, Deutrom concluded his quoted remarks with: “We will continue to engage with the event organisers to ensure all commitments are met to their fullest extent, including any receivables owing to Cricket Ireland itself. We will additionally be seeking increased comfort that the organisers will be able to avoid a repeat of this year’s challenges in future editions.”^
Cricket Scotland, through its CEO Malcolm Cannon, said it “has no regrets about trying to find innovative ways to drive cricket forward, popularise the game, and attract more investment into the sport. Indeed, the interest shown in the Slam since its launch has proved to us here in Scotland that there is a huge appetite for this type of event and for Scottish sports fans to get to see international superstars playing with and against our homegrown talent.”
At least one of the three boards have received their hosting fee for the event already but it is expected to have the biggest impact on Cricket Ireland – originally approached by G.S. Holdings/Woods – who were to receive the greater share of the total hosting fees. The Test nation, who receives around $5m in annual grants from the ICC as a Full member lost a “six figure sum” by way of a cyber-fraud loss earlier this year and experienced additional cash flow challenges which resulted in the administration receiving (and repaying) a loan of €100,000 from its long-standing Chief Executive.
It is understood that local players – who had not been offered any official contracts, despite being drafted for amounts up to $35,000 – will not see a dime of the money they were promised for being part of the event.
Over 100 players affected
Set to get underway August 30 in the Netherlands, the Slam was to feature two franchises from each of Ireland, Netherlands and Scotland hosted in three cities, beginning in Rotterdam before moving on to Edinburgh and Dublin.
Imran Tahir, Shane Watson, Chris Lynn, Rashid Khan, Brendon McCullum and England captain Eoin Morgan (who was drafted for his native Dublin) were among a raft of talent selected from nine Full member nations. Khan then pulled out owing to national team duties, while McCullum has now retired from all forms of cricket and was not going to take his place in the now cancelled 2019 event.
Emergency meetings followed GT20 player protests
While the player protest over non-payment of salaries to GT20 Canada players appears to have spurred some emergency meetings, organisational issues appear to have been festering for a good while longer. There were grave concerns for the broadcast preparations which were behind schedule as, similar to the GT20, budgets were slashed after agreements had been made, resulting in deep frustration felt by contractors and media houses alike.
Stakeholders had been informed that among acquisitions of various Slam franchises one of the teams – the Rotterdam Rhinos – had been purchased by the IPL’s Kings XI Punjab^^ – but with questions around organisers’ preparedness, and the lack of substantive announcements around ticketing or other event related news, rumours began to spread over the final weekend at GT20 Canada that the chances of running the 2019 event were slim, and these only grew in intensity until the decision was announced.
The cancellation will also cause a rethink in the three hosts’ preparations for the T20 World Cup Qualifier which will be held in the UAE in October and November. The Slam was to be used as practice for each teams’ key players. Ireland and the Netherlands will compete in a five-nation event in Oman immediately before the crucial tournament, while Scotland will travel early to the UAE for additional T20 matches.
0840 GMT 15 AUG –
^This entire paragraph including Deutrom’s final quote was added after being erroneous excluded when originally published.
^^Initially it was understood and reported the Slam had recruited the CEO of KXIP but this was re-established by event organisers as not being true so this passage was deleted.