The inaugural European Cricket League, hailed as the Champions League of the European game, is now just a week away.
Held at the world class La Manga complex in Spain, eight domestic domestic champions will battle over three days to become the tournament’s first ever winner.
The visionary of the tournament is German national team wicket keeper, Daniel Weston. An ex-tech founder and global macro hedge fund manager hailing from Perth in Western Australia, Weston has led European cricket on a journey through uncharted territory, with his mission to link together the continent’s grassroots game to elite domestic and international cricket.
Weston’s lofty ambitions are matched by a drive and a thirst to build every level of the game in Europe. Rather than a franchise tournament flying in and flying out on a touring show, the ECL focuses on established clubs, re-igniting the passion in cricket players and fans who find themselves in mainland Europe, and inspiring the young to take up the game.
Through the European Cricket Network, and the new league to be played out, people have bought in to Weston’s vision. From the clubs established and the influx of cricketers since the network has filmed cricket, it is obvious that links have been made even before the ECL has begun. Though for the ECL to explode, Weston’s work had to inspire people with pedigree – people who have worked to make the most of booms through other European trends. Enter Roger Feiner, Frank Leenders and Thomas Klooz.
Weston met Feiner at a gala dinner in Switzerland, working on ‘Ice Cricket’ and ‘Cricket On Ice’ in St. Moritz. A former Head of Broadcasting at FIFA, Feiner, impressed with Weston’s vision, introduced him to Leenders and Klooz, forefathers of the UEFA Champions League. Given thirty days to pitch the idea of the ECL to the three of them, Weston impressed. Through the links made and the growth of cricket in Europe, he believed a continental league brought everything together.
“Germany produces a T20 domestic champion and so do all the other countries in Europe. All we need to do is create the European Cricket League, which is the Champions League of European Cricket, meaning the domestic club T20 champion gets invited to the ECL,” Weston told the Emerging Cricket Podcast (embedded above).
The European Cricket League’s eight teams come from Denmark, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Romania and Russia. The tournament is a great leveler for teams across the continent, as it gives teams representing their domestic leagues a chance to showcase cricket from their countries in front of millions of people.
For VOC Rotterdam, the early favourites for the ECL, they turn out in the ten-team Topklasse, with the Dutch domestic league arguably the strongest on the continent. For St. Petersburg Lions, they are representing a country whose government don’t even recognise cricket as a sport. The thing bringing them to the same playing field, and building cricket holistically across the continent, is that they are all domestic champions looking to achieve glory. Denmark’s Svanholm Cricket Club was founded in 1956 and boasts 27 national championships, though by contrast, Spain’s Catalunya Cricket Club and Romania’s Cluj were established in 2008 and 2009 respectively.
The ECL will be broadcast on TV and live streams to over 100 countries, with the exposure crucial for future partners to jump on board and build the tournament to greater heights.
“Sponsors will only arrive if the event is something to be proud to put their name to and if it’s shiny and classy and the sort of product you’d expect out of Europe.
“For us, I’m well aware that sponsors, great or small will only come if the event is awesome. For me it’s a really sharp focus on creating an awesome product and an awesome event, which the players are proud of and we’re proud of and therefore potential multi-national companies are proud of.”
Weston and his team thus far have created the awesome product, with a clear vision and squeaky-clean promotion. For all the lead-up though, the attention now moves to La Manga, with the three day tournament set to play out.
The eight teams are split into two groups of four, with the top two in each group moving onto the semi-finals. VOC, Svanholm and Cluj are joined by France’s Dreux Cricket Club, who share their home ground, an hour outside of Paris, with 60 other teams. In the other group, Catalunya and St. Petersburg are group with Janjua Brescia of Italy, and SG Findorff of Germany.
The final day of the ECL will have minor placing playoffs in the morning, with both semi-finals and the final played out in the afternoon. Weston, in his final preparation for the tournament, can’t wait for new heroes to emerge.
“We put cameras in front of European cricketers and we’re going to unearth some really exciting stories and as we know sports all about stories. That’s the exciting journey that we’re on.”