Fears of breakaway rebel cricket league sparks ICC investigation

IPL founder Lalit Modi, an outspoken critic of the ICC, tweeted: "about time this happened".
Reuters

IPL founder Lalit Modi, an outspoken critic of the ICC, tweeted: "about time this happened".

New Zealand Cricket has been drawn into an ICC-led investigation targeting a possible breakaway rebel cricket league.

It has been revealed that Ten Sports, a subsidiary of Indian-based Essel Group, has registered domains with similar names to national bodies, sparking widespread controversy and speculation about its motives.

The ICC has moved to focus its investigation on Essel, the company behind failed rebel cricket league the ICL, as fears grow over the launch of another rival Twenty20 competition, possibly in the untapped United States market.  

Essel registered the names New Zealand Cricket Limited, Kiwi Cricket Limited and Aotearoa Cricket Limited with the Companies Office. Alerted to the issue, NZC managed to block the first named being used - due to copyright laws - but was powerless to stop the others.

New Zealand is among the first countries targeted, along with Australia, Scotland and England.

The Guardian reported these moves by Essel, which ran the rebel ICL tournament from 2007 until its collapse in 2009, and Ten Sports, the host broadcaster for home international matches played by West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Zimbabwe, has left elite cricket bosses questioning whether fresh moves are afoot for another breakaway cricket tournament.

It may also signal a challenge of the establishment, with those five nations openly disenfranchised after the power grab by "the big three" - India, England and Australia.

Lalit Modi, IPL founder and outspoken critic of the ICC, said in a tweet it was "about time this happened".

READ MORE: Governing bodies on alert over rebel league

The issue came to a head at an ICC meeting in Dubai last week. NZC's representative on the board, Greg Barclay, said it became aware of the registration of those companies last December and has since alerted the ICC to the activities.

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"We've been concerned that some of the names included 'New Zealand' and 'cricket' in them and we referred it to the ICC as soon as we became aware that there might be some activity going on without knowing what that was," Barclay said. "Our position was to let the ICC deal with is as they saw fit.

"When I was at the ICC meeting it was a discussion point, because they were aware that it wasn't just New Zealand where these registrations were taking place.

"The discussion was that we need to make some enquiries to find out what's going on, and not least of all have a conversation with Ten Sports, who are the broadcasting arm of Essel."

While there is clear intent, Barclay declined to speculate whether the name registrations were the first step to take on the cricket establishment.

"It would be too early to say that. We haven't seen any other activity and we're not aware of anything happening that would give rise to any speculation around leagues or whatever.

"It's a bit early to draw any conclusions, but let's see what the enquiries the ICC may reveal.

"Hopefully, they can explain what they're up to and their response determines what happens next. I know the legal team at the ICC are already starting to make those enquiries."

Another rebel league has the potential to create conflict and controversy, but also offer more choice for players.

The ICL was dogged with problems during its fleeting existence. Players were not paid in full and allegations of corruption later emerged with former Black Caps opener Lou Vincent admitting fixing games in 2008. 

 - Stuff

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