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Saudi Arabia in talks with Indian Premier League

Indian Premier League Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Mumbai Indians Indian Premier League
Players connected to Indian Premier League teams such as Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians could complete in Saudi T20 events
  • Saudi Arabia plans T20 cricket competition
  • Teams would be linked to franchises from IPL
  • PIF has been increasing sports investment

Reports linking Saudi Arabia with an Indian Premier League-style cricket tournament are both “unsurprising” and a “logical next step” in the continued growth of the sport across the region, according to a leading industry analyst.

Saudi Arabia is in discussions with the owners of the IPL to establish a new T20 competition, according to a report in The Times.

The tournament would feature teams linked to IPL franchises. Players offered annual contracts would be able to turn out for linked franchises across a variety of T20 events, including in Saudi Arabia.

Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economy at Skema Business School in Paris, told AGBI: “The Gulf has been increasing its grip over global cricket for more than a decade, with Dubai now host of the International Cricket Council and the region hosting both Test matches and other competitions.”

Currently Indian players are banned from participating in franchise tournaments outside of the IPL.

However, franchise owners have interests in other tournaments across the world, including the UAE’s ILT20, which launched earlier this year, as well as the SA20 in South Africa, the Caribbean Premier League and the upcoming Major League Cricket in the US, set to get under way in July.

With a new media broadcasting rights agreement worth a reported $6.2 million set to take effect in 2023-27, the appearance and prize money available to players competing in the IPL could increase even further. 

According to the Times report, 12-month contracts worth in the region of £5 million could be offered to participating players.

Saudi Arabia is committed to building its sporting reputation. The Ministry of Sport and the Ministry of Tourism have set an ambitious target for sporting events to contribute 0.6 percent of GDP by 2030, up from approximately 0.2 percent last year. The strategy also aims to boost international tourism numbers.

Saudi’s first Formula 1 race was held in Jeddah in 2021, along with several world championship boxing matches and the Saudi International golf tournament.

In addition, Saudi’s Public Investment Fund is backing the controversial breakaway LIV Golf series and has a stake in English Premier League team Newcastle United. 

Chadwick said: “Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has recently been involved in a huge global spending spree, across multiple sports, mostly in the country’s pursuit of revenue generating assets. 

“There is no doubt that the IPL is a commercial phenomenon and therefore a relatively safe bet for investment analysts in Riyadh.”