England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Giles Clarke dismissed on Tuesday talk of a city franchise system being introduced for domestic Twenty20 cricket.
Clarke, speaking at the ECB’s annual general meeting at Lord’s, said fan loyalty was an important part of all sport in Britain and would have to be a factor in any attempts to emulate a new domestic league in India.
“Franchise sport has simply never worked in the UK,” he said.
“Tradition and history rather than Bollywood stars and glitz are the binding which persuade supporters to return week in, week out to our grounds — whether it is rugby, football or cricket,” the former Somerset chairman said.
“There has never yet been a successful Team London in any sport and nor is there likely to be any support for a Team Manchester or Team Leeds from traditional areas of rivalry such as Liverpool or Sheffield,” he said.
“When ECB launched their own Twenty20 Cup it was on the back of extensive spectator research and financial analysis, Clarke said.
“This is an exercise we will repeat before launching any new competition because we have said this tournament must be robust, spectator friendly and economically sustainable,” Clarke said.
The ECB have been in talks with Texan billionaire Allen Stanford, who already bankrolls an innovative Twenty20 competition in the West Indies, about how the US businessman might fund a new event in England.
Clarke said recent developments in India had been based on the model created by the ECB, which pioneered Twenty20 as a professional cricket format.
“Now the challenge for all of us is to continue investing in the marketing and presentation of the Twenty20 Cup to ensure it remains a brand leader for domestic competitions,” Clarke said.
“People talked of an Indian event based on city franchises but these were not city franchises as we know them other than in the greatcities of India such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Chennai,” he said.
“This was not the picture of city franchise sport as those looking from afar might assume,” Clarke said. “Indeed all those involved wished there was a hundred years of tradition on which to build these fledgling brands.”
“I thank Sir Allen for his interest in cricket in England and Wales and most of all I thank him for believing that the ECB is the right vehicle through which to expand his patronage in cricket,” he said.
“I hope to give more details in the days and weeks ahead but I can guarantee that everyone in the game — from playground to Test arena — will benefit from this deal,” Clarke said.