Opinion: The Champions League Twenty20 is rubbish

Blog Opinion

The Champions League Twenty20 is not sport in its truest sense. The playing field is so uneven that any real competition is ripped out. There is little point in teams from outside the Indian Premier League turning up. They are patronised and there to make up the numbers, writes Peter Miller.

The Champions League T20 is underway in India. A tournament that could be fantastic is instead a low-key affair that is already under threat despite a 10-year broadcasting deal still having four years to run.

There has been issue gaining a title sponsor, with the brand associated with the event changing more often than a Hollywood A-lister changes spouse. It hasn't caught the imagination the way that the IPL has, and the reason for this is pretty obvious.

It is IPL Lite, some of the same sides, but playing against teams that are ravaged by losing some of their best players to the franchises of the Indian T20 behemoth. The Barbados Tridents and Southern Express have lost their captains to the Mumbai Indians. The Northern Knights have lost their star all-rounder to them as well, and the Mumbai side aren't even playing him. While ostensibly these players have a choice, in reality that is an illusion.

The IPL sides want them to play, their "home" team want them to play so they get $150,000 in compensation, the players themselves are all but contractually obliged to play for the IPL side if they qualify. According to Lalit Modi, when Kieron Pollard told the IPL's Sundar Raman that he wanted to play for Trinidad and Tobago he was informed that he would be in breach of his IPL contract. When most of your earnings come from that one event you are going to want to keep the bosses happy.

Even after the IPL have taken the best talent from the other sides that have qualified the event is stacked in their favour thanks to the makeup of the tournament. Three IPL teams make it straight through to the main draw while the Champion sides of Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Pakistan are forced to qualify against yet another India franchise. The English champions don't even bother going, thanks to the event taking place during the English season and the prize money they would get for reaching the final stages not even covering their costs.

With more sides, the best players and home advantage, the IPL sides should win the tournament every year, and most years they do. The only other winners have been sides from New South Wales in Australia. This year it seems unlikely that the winner will be from anywhere other than the IPL.

Some would ask if any of this matters. It is just entertainment. For others that it the problem writ large. The CLT20 isn't sport in its truest sense. The playing field is so uneven that any real competition is ripped out. There is little point in the other sides turning up, they are there to make up the numbers.

Worse than that, they are patronised. They are told that this is the biggest stage that they will get to play on, that this is their chance to shine. As if the Big Bash, Ram Slam or the Caribbean Premier League are tin pot events that no-one watches. It isn't until these teams get to play against the might of the Chennai Super Kings that they can truly feel fulfilled.

Annoyingly, the Champions League T20 could be amazing. Rather than having the qualification of the tournament based on which boards own the largest share, it could be run for the good of the game to really grow interest in the sport. It wouldn't even be that hard.

Instead of holding it every year and clogging up an already congested schedule it could be a biannual event. The winners from each of the two qualifying years from the top eight full member nations would qualify, with a view to including other nations as the strength of those leagues improve. Those 16 teams would go into four groups of four with the top two moving on to the quarter finals. In the event of a team winning their domestic T20 two years in a row the losing finalist in the second year would join them at the tournament.

As far as overseas players are concerned you would play for your home team if there was a clash. This would have the dual benefit of keeping things competitive and also allowing the second tier of overseas players get a game for franchises. A way to make this task easier would be to stipulate that all teams were only allowed to field two overseas players rather the current situation where IPL teams get twice the number anyone else can have.

Of course, none of these simple changes will happen. Instead a format that has some serious legs will die due to it being badly managed. On top of that I will be told that I am jealous for even suggesting that the format be changed for the good of the sport. Such is life.

<b>Peter Miller</b>

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