Hong Kong T20 Blitz

‘For the sake of the team’ – Kowloon Cantons’ nine women owners sell HK T20 Blitz franchise

CEO Urvashi Sethi-Sodhi says it was a difficult decision to let go but more resources are needed to grow the brand

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 February, 2018, 6:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 February, 2018, 10:55am

They were nine ordinary women with an entrepreneurial spirit and a fierce passion for cricket – so it was appropriate that their team would be called Kowloon (Nine Dragons in Cantonese) Cantons.

After three tournaments and two titles, the most successful franchise in Hong Kong T20 Blitz history has grown beyond the financial grasps of the nine women who reached into their own pockets to bring the team to life in 2016.

Cantons yesterday announced that the franchise is to be sold to Dining Concepts, one of the largest restaurant groups in Hong Kong – a painful decision for the previous owners who realised that, without corporate backing, the team could only go so far.

“It surely was not an easy decision and not one that we have made lightly. All of us have put our heart and soul into creating and nurturing this team and bringing it to this level,” said CEO Urvashi Sethi-Sodhi, who will hand over the reins on April 1. “However, the franchise needs a lot more now to grow – it needs a full-time team dedicated to it and resources of another level, something we cannot easily provide.

“It was surely not a monetary consideration [to us], it’s what we felt was the right thing to do for the sake of the team.”

The other four teams in the competition are supported by corporate backers. Sethi-Sodhi and the Cantons management were able to secure a number of sponsors for 2018 but it became clear that the only way to take the franchise forward was to relinquish control and hand it over to an entity that would have the resources to fulfil the ambitions of the original nine owners – sustain a team in the Blitz for many years while helping to develop cricket in the Hong Kong community.

One of the conditions of the sale was to ensure that the new owners would retain the Kowloon Cantons name, its vision and mission.

Sandeep Sekhri, CEO of Dining Concepts, said: “It’s an honour and privilege for Dining Concepts to take over Kowloon Cantons from April 1 onwards. The nine ladies have worked with utmost zeal and passion from day one in creating an incredible team.

“The team has nurtured and groomed local talent very well and the outreach programme has been an outstanding success. We hope to continue the legacy and do the best in years to come.”

Cantons were the first team to sign a big-name player when they secured former Australia captain Michael Clarke for the inaugural tournament in 2016.

Over the past two years, they have recruited a number of international stars such as Wahab Riaz, Dwayne Smith, Marlon Samuels, Samit Patel, Ashar Zaidi, Yasir Arafat, Tymal Mills, Shahid Afridi.

Last year, they were the first T20 franchise given permission – later revoked – by India’s governing body to sign one of their players – Yusuf Pathan.

The franchise has also introduced an Outreach programme taking cricket into schools and organised the interuniversity T10 tournament known as the Kowloon Cantons Cup.

“A significant amount of work has been put in by our team in every aspect of development of cricket in Hong Kong, be it with player goodwill, the outreach programme or the charity we support,” said Sethi-Sodhi. “This is no mean feat for us and we believe we are leaving behind a legacy that we hope will continue with the new owners. Dining Concepts understands the principles with which we set up the franchise and we are confident that they will carry on from where we left, keeping the Kowloon Cantons brand as strong as it is today.”

Sethi-Soshi said that she and other founding members will help the new owners understand the brand as they take the franchise forward.

“We are confident that they are as committed to cricket in Hong Kong as we were and continue to be. We thank all those who have sponsored and supported us in these years and enabled nine ordinary women to achieve something so enormous,” she said.