Cricket: Champions League seals $1billion Asian TV deal

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ASIAN broadcaster ESPN Star Sports will shell out $1 billion (£517 million) for the exclusive television rights to the Twenty20 Champions League.

The deal covers the next ten years, with the inaugural tournament – which features English Twenty20 Cup winners Middlesex – taking place from 3-10 December, when almost 3 million will be available in prizemoney. It will feature eight teams, two each from Australia, India and South Africa and the champions from the England and Pakistan domestic leagues.

Organisers said yesterday the broadcaster had bid about 480m for a ten-year deal, plus about 37m for marketing.

ESPN's massive cash investment represents the most lucrative rights contract ever agreed in the sport on a per-game basis and is the latest in a series of big-money deals, including those involving Sir Allen Stanford, to flood cricket since the inception of the shortest format of the game.

"The commercial rights were won by ESPN STAR Sports with a bid of 480m (including 37m for marketing the tournament)," said ESPN in a statement. "This makes the Champions League Twenty20 the highest-value cricket tournament on a per game basis."

The Australian, Indian and South African boards will jointly organise the Champions League, an off-shoot of the lucrative Indian version that was launched this year.

"We are absolutely delighted that after a fair and transparent process, we have what we believe to be the best commercial deal for the inaugural Champions League season and for cricket fans across the world," said Lalit Modi, vice-president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

ESS managing director Manu Sawhney added: "This (deal] is a testament to our commitment to the game of cricket and fans as we cement our relationship with the BCCI, Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa."

Organisers plan to expand the field to 12 teams next year.

The International Cricket Council has, meantime, deferred a decision on the new dates for the postponed Champions Trophy after agreement could not be reached at yesterday's executive meeting.

The Champions Trophy, which was scheduled to be held in Pakistan between 12 and 28 September, was postponed to October 2009 due to security concerns.

But with India scheduled to play Australia in a seven-match one-day series, and with the second edition of the Champions League Twenty20 tournament scheduled to take place from 25 September to 11 October, the ICC is now finding it tough to make room in the calendar for the tournament.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India has refused to re-schedule its series with Australia to accommodate the Champions Trophy.

"It was agreed by the ICC Board that the chief executive Haroon Lorgat would engage with member boards likely to be affected by the rescheduling of the tournament to September or October 2009," stated an ICC press release. The ICC will now take a decision at a board meeting in October.

The ICC has also decided to extend trials for the umpire referral system, which was put to the test in India's recently-completed Test series against Sri Lanka.

The system was welcomed by Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene, but Indian captain Anil Kumble felt more trials would be necessary before the system could be fully implemented.

"It was agreed that the ideal would be for as many umpires and teams as possible to be exposed to the trial to allow proper assessment of the system's merits or otherwise," the ICC said.

In addition, the ICC also revealed it would consider an alternative structure for bilateral tours to the current Future Tours Programme which concludes in May 2012.