The Caribbean Premier League (CPL) is now one of the more established Twenty20 cricket leagues that are dotted around the calendar. This may sound odd for a league that is only four years old, but it has shown a level of stability that hasn’t always been the case with the Caribbean’s T20 tournament. The CPL is now the longest running T20 competition that West Indies cricket has had.
They have just released details of an “Economic Impact Assessment” that has been carried out by SMG Insight/YouGov which says that the CPL has given a net benefit of $ 102,670,565 to the seven territories in which it was played. This figure factors in such things as positive press about the different locations as tourist destinations – so that is not a real cash figure. Around $30 million of that overall figure is “media value”, in essence advertising the host nations. But the CPL’s Chief Operating Officer, Pete Russell, called the workings behind this figure as “robust”.
While the CPL is based in the West Indies, India is also hugely important to the success of the tournament going forward. The tournament’s has got Vijay Mallya on board as owner of the Barbados team, and Shah Rukh Khan has bought the Trinidad and Tobago franchise and rebranded it to be the Trinbago Knight Riders to link up with his IPLside. Of the 130 million viewers, 63 percent were in India.
“CPL now has some very important partners out of India – the Knight Riders investment in Trinidad, for example, has introduced a new audience to CPL, which is reflected in the rapidly growing TV numbers – up to 82 million last year,” Russell said. “The knock on benefits of building your TV audience in India is that your commercial platform becomes a lot more attractive to brands from that part of the world.”
The biggest winners from a financial point of view were St Kitts and Nevis, who hosted four group games and the tournament finals. SMG Insight/YouGov said that the cumulative economic benefit to the twin island nation’s economy over $22 million.
Barbados and Guyana also fared well according to this report, with both countries’ economies benefiting by over $15 million. Both the Barbados Tridents and Guyana Amazon Warriors had sponsorship from the respective tourist boards on their shirts which increased that “media value” figure for both countries.
“We are very different from other leagues, in as much as we are in seven different countries.” Russell says. “What our commitment is to those countries is we will try and promote them as a destination, both sporting one and for tourism. That is a large part of what makes it so interesting, because they are very different environments. For us, if we can get across the local personality of the country that I think is a good thing for the local population who rely so heavily on tourism.”
Being able to demonstrate this kind of value to the governments that host the various franchises is important to the CPL. Russell says that they are trying to get the governments to shift their mindsets from seeing the cost of hosting matches as an expense and instead viewing it as an investment.
“If we go to St Kitts and Nevis and say having a team here will good for the brand of St Kitts and Nevis, you are going to get exposure around the world. The cricketing world is going to understand that you are part of a professional T20 league and that in itself is going to have spinoff benefits,” Russell said.
“That is why these reports are so important. There is quite a lot of cynicism in the Caribbean that you come out with this report, and people think but you would say that, wouldn’t you. But actually these are very independently run. The guys that put this together wouldn’t have a business if they were not impartial.”
Getting those cash-strapped Caribbean governments to view the CPL as a net benefit for their economies is the real trick to CPL being a feature of the cricketing landscape for years to come. Over the five years that the tournament has been running, the relationship that the CPL has had with some of those governments has been bumpy. They are the real audience for these figures.
Of particular interest in the survey, which had somewhere close to 16,000 respondents, was the details of the CPL’s trip to Florida for six league matches. The CPL say they invested $1.6 million in getting those matches off the ground, with the money spent on staffing, the stadium itself and also on the services of Mark Perham, a pitch consultant from New Zealand who worked on the wickets at the Launderhill ground.
The report says that the amount visitors spent in Florida was $4,751,872 with around 30,000 spectators coming to watch the six matches, many of them travelling from New York, Texas and Los Angeles. A combined TV audience of 12.7 million watched the six matches in Florida, part of 130 million cumulative viewers worldwide.
Russell says that both the ICC and the local authorities in Florida are very pleased with how things went in the USA, and that the league hopes to return there in the future, saying that the level of funding that the CPL put into hosting those matches shows their commitment to expanding the CPL northwards into America. India may be given CPL the majority of its TV audience, but America is in the same timezone, has a ready made fan base and people with money to spend on cricket.
Realistically, the USA is where any CPL expansion happens. It seems unlikely that the Caribbean can sustain more than six franchises, and with all of them now in private hands, the tournament has a solid base to build from. While having a team based in the USA may sound attractive it comes with a large infrastructure price tag, there is no ready made cricket stadium in the USA; even the Lauderhill venue that hosted matches this year is a makeshift affair.
It is important to not get to carried away with this kind of report, the ultimate test for any business venture is whether it is making money. The CPL is not yet turning a profit, but Russell says that they are on target with their projections of where they would be heading into year five. It is an interesting case study as the only privately run, officially sanctioned T20 tournament in the cricketing world. It seems that things are going well, but the Caribbean is an economically deprived area. How much further the tournament can grow without spreading its wings and taking the American plunge is a matter for debate.