Nepal Premier League announced, draft MOU with Indian partner under spotlight

The AGM of the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) which was held virtually on Wednesday also served to propose the Nepal Premier League (NPL), a franchise-based T20 league that could set the benchmark of franchise leagues among the Associate world. NPL was an awaited move from CAN and has been expected since the restoration of the association.

However, no sooner had the league been introduced formally, the recently reinstated board appears to have stirred up controversy, as it introduced a draft of the memorandum of understanding with Haryana based event management company, Seven 3 Sports Pvt. Ltd. 

As per the proposed draft, the event management company will pay a sum of NRs 420 million (~US$3.524 million) over the agreed ten-year period, conducting the NPL and Junior Cricket Championship. As reported by CAN, the company also has agreed to help in the maintenance of at least two stadiums, pavilion, installation of floodlights, and other infrastructural development.

(Graphic by Nate Hays)

‘The agreement is similar to giving license to the Indian company for holding the franchise-based NPL for the next ten years, though CAN will be the owner’, the president of the CAN, Chatur Bahadur Chand said. 

As proposed, the event company will hand over NRs 25 million (US$210k) as the license fee to the Cricket Association of Nepal in the first year, 20 million (US$168k) in the second year, 25 million in the third year. And, gradually increasing, it will pay about NRs 420 million over the ten-year period. The rest of the revenue to be generated through players’ auctions, digital rights, and other sponsorships will go to the event management company. The proposal was opposed by a number of the representatives in the AGM. 

As soon as this proposal broke out to the media, criticisms arose against CAN for ‘trying to outsource the NPL rights to an unknown event management company for a scrawny amount, and that too, for a longer period of time.’ 

‘There is no doubt that the CAN should organise the NPL but the proposal to give away its right to an Indian company is a “betrayal”. In a country where a simple national level tournament earned a title sponsorship of around Nrs 7.5 Million ($63k) on my tenure five years ago, NRs 20 million is nowhere a big amount for an international level, exclusive, franchise-based T20 league NPL, organised by CAN’, Former CEO of CAN, Bhawana Ghimire tweeted.

What happens to the existing franchise leagues? 

When CAN was suspended by the ICC, three franchise-based leagues evolved from different cities of Nepal to strengthen the domestic cricket of Nepal. These homegrown cricket leagues Everest Premier League (EPL T20), Dhangadi Premier League (DPL T20), and Pokhara Premier League (PPL T20) kept Nepal cricket growing during the absence of the chief cricket governing body. 

While a clause in the proposed agreement demands CAN to ‘ensure NPL as the sole and exclusive official league and/or tournament relating to the sport of cricket with respect to a T-20 format’, it is almost certain to affect the other franchise-leagues in terms of sponsorships, digital rights, and on several other conditions. 

’20 million a year is not a big deal. If CAN comes and talks to us, we are ready to pay more than that. Firstly, it’s CAN that needs to organise the NPL itself. If not, CAN needs to consult with those who are working in this field. We are ready to do NPL. If the Indian company gets its rights, it will be very unfortunate for Nepali cricket’, says Subash Shahi, Managing Director of the Dhangadi Premier League. 

(Graphic: Nate Hays)

Aamir Akhtar, the managing director of the EPL T20 sees this from a security perspective. ‘The right to the project should not be given to any companies instantly. Because it is a foreign company, you have to be concerned about everything, including their background, the source of the investments, their personal interests, everything. The NPL is a good move from the CAN but they need to be very careful in giving away NPL rights to a foreign company. Its decision could be fatal tomorrow if not taken into consideration, every aspect especially with the source of investments, team owners, code of conduct, and anti-corruption aspect must be properly investigated. And we cannot afford to risk it at this stage. If CAN wants to hand it over to local management, I’m always interested’, says Aamir Akhtar. 

Many in social media fan groups have criticised this move by CAN, also expressing their desire to see a collaborative approach of local professionals working in this field. But the general secretary of CAN Ashok Nath Pyakuryal does not want other franchise leagues to discontinue.

‘There is no negative perspective about other franchise leagues, we want them to proceed but NPL will be the official franchise league of the CAN.

‘The Indian company is requesting a guarantee of not losing its underlying venture as it intends to build up the league in its initial years. As it gets into the state of breakeven, it will require an additional couple of years to make the benefit. The excess years will be its guarantee. Since issues have been raised over the proposed sum and term of the agreement inside the CAN, we are pondering methods of revision’, the Ashok Nath Pyakuryal said. 

Although multiple clarifications have been made by CAN, its willingness to tie-up with an Indian company has been heavily criticised and it is we may just see this matter referred for its own form of DRS.

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