Raising the stakes: Hong Kong T20 Blitz adds fifth franchise

Organisers expect more big-name players to take part in the five-day tournament in March

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 August, 2016, 3:26pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 August, 2016, 11:14pm

The fifth franchise for the expanded Hong Kong T20 Blitz is up for auction, with the base price raised 150 per cent and the Hong Kong Cricket Association receiving strong interest from a number of countries.

Organisers are expecting more big-name players to take part in the March tournament, which has been extended to five days, instead of three, with the new franchise going at a base price of HK$125,000 – up from HK$50,000 for May’s inaugural event.

“The tournament is now five days instead of two-and-a-half and every match will be streamed live – so the fees have been raised in line with the overall growth of the event,” said HKCA marketing and commercial director Max Abbott.

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“This time around teams also have six months to plan their promotions and sponsor events so that in itself makes it more attractive.

“[The money] is going back into the event to make it a success. There has also been interest from broadcasters, who are waiting to see what players sign on.”

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Abbott said entities from England, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and the Caribbean had expressed interest. Applications for the fifth franchise auction close on September 16.

The first Blitz featured four franchises, one of which landed the prize signing of former Australian captain Michael Clarke. However, rain washed out most of the matches.

“It’s exciting that we will have a new team join the competition, which of course will provide more matches and a new angle,” said HKCA chief executive Tim Cutler.

“The winning bidder, like last time, can name the team, design the kits and develop this new franchise’s identity.

“We want to bring in an owner that shares the same ambition, that not only we have for the tournament, but the existing owners as well. We want to make Hong Kong proud of this tournament.”

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Cutler said it would be up to the franchise owners to strike deals with any overseas players and he was confident the tournament would feature high-profile cricketers.

“It’s very plausible we could see some of the game’s biggest stars here in Hong Kong,” said Cutler. “On a personal level I’d love to see a couple of the world champion West Indies players such as Chris Gayle and Andre Russell.

“Of course, it would be great to see Michael Clarke back as well.

“It’s also a great opportunity for our local players to play and train with these guys, especially for our Chinese development team who will form a part of each squad next year.”