Thursday 19 September 2019

Cricket Ireland's plans thrown into chaos ahead of crucial qualifiers after postponement of Euro T20 Slam

Stock photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Stock photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ger Siggins

Cricket Ireland is hopeful that a tri-series can be organised with Scotland and the Netherlands next month to give its players game time ahead of the World T20 Qualifiers in November after its plans were thrown into chaos with the postponement of the Euro T20 Slam.

The six-team tournament, whose teams included the Dublin Chiefs and Belfast Titans, was due to start on August 30 but the plug was pulled on Wednesday amid a swirl of rumours and an official line blaming cash-flow.

The event was organised by Prashant Mishra and Amit Singh a pair of thirtysomething entrepreneurs trading as Woods Entertainment, backed by billionaire Gurmeet Singh. They had approached Cricket Ireland two years ago to suggest a six-team tournament here, but the governing body suggested widening it to include the leading European associates.

The Slam was announced with a fanfare in April. George Dockrell, the Ireland all-rounder, buzzed, “The kind of learning you can pick up from this tournament will be fantastic. The young players, the older players, the coaches, everyone in Irish cricket will get better from this experience.”

A Bollywood starlet, Yami Gautam, flew in from Delhi – with a business-class entourage of five – for the launch, showing that the organisers’ focus was far to the East of Malahide.

The Irish players were delighted at the opportunity to rub shoulders with greats such as Brendon McCullum, Eoin Morgan and Shahid Afridi, and a chance of some quality practice. The money was pretty good too – squad players would make $10,000 or $20,000 for 24 days’ work, while Andrew Balbirnie, Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien would earn $35,000. Ireland T20 captain Gary Wilson was set to pick up $40,000.

Cricket Ireland, which has weathered several financial crises this year, stood to receive $2m.

Woods Entertainment also ran the Global T20, which finished in Canada last weekend, but the final week was blighted when some players refused to play until overdue payments were received.

Ross McCollum, CI chairman, said: “Things were progressing well, payments were received by certain times, but that issue at the Canadian T20 over payments to players rang a few alarm bells”.

A cash flow issue was blamed, and there were fears for the Slam coming so soon afterwards. They organisers had also failed to understand the nature of cricket in the European host countries. None have a dedicated stadium, all relying on club grounds which can be expanded with temporary seating.

The organisers were also warned of the need to secure a licence for Malahide but failed to do so in good time. Fingal County Council considered the application last Monday but there were still outstanding issues. Because of the delays not a single ticket went on sale.

The three unions are represented on the Slam board, and after several conference calls over the next 48 hours, Woods Entertainment said they would be postponing the event on Wednesday afternoon.

“We are deeply disappointed with the decision, however, fully empathise with the rationale that has led to the tournament’s postponement,” said Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom. “We will be seeking increased comfort that the organisers will be able to avoid a repeat of this year’s challenges.”

The organisers have signed a ten-year deal, and previous experience of such events is of heavy initial losses. It’s understood that over $10m was budgeted for the Slam, but with Sky Sports and Sony India set to show the matches it could have recouped a good chunk of that, while ticket sales were competitively priced at €10.

The Irish Cricketers Association said it was disappointed, “both in terms of the impact it has on the players’ preparation for the upcoming T20 World Cup qualifiers and on the players themselves and their families, and the expectations that were raised by the organisers and the governing bodies.”

It added: “we will be working closely with Cricket Ireland to safeguard our members’ interests which include their ability to prepare adequately for upcoming international commitments, and the expected income that was expected on foot of the Slam.”

McCollum says that the players lost fees are “under consideration,” but points out that “they were contracted to Woods Entertainment, not Cricket Ireland.”

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