Long innings: Cricket Sixes organisers in talks with potential partner to secure long-term future
A financial agreement would reduce the tournament’s reliance on government funding while reviving and sustaining one of Hong Kong’s most popular events
Hong Kong Cricket Sixes organisers are hoping to lock in a deal with a major international partner that would not only bring the popular tournament back to life but lay down the financial foundations to guarantee its long-term future.
Tim Cutler, chief executive of the Hong Kong Cricket Association (HKCA), said negotiations were at an advanced stage although it was still too early to say if the event would take place in October for the first time since 2012.
There is also hope that cash from the government’s Mega Events Fund (MEF) would offer another avenue for reviving the tournament.
“It just means we have that safety net that we can guarantee the Sixes will be held year on year,” said Cutler. “This hasn’t been agreed yet but what we can say is that the conversation is at an advanced stage in confirming a long-term Sixes partner.”
The Hong Kong Sixes was a major event on the local calendar from 1992 to 1997 and from 2001 to 2012 before it was cancelled because of a lack of sponsorship.
The HKCA has since been trying to revive the event but had been rejected by the government’s MEF, which gives out money for events that would raise Hong Kong’s global profile.
However, there have been positive signs that all their hard work would pay off this year, including indications from MEF that it was willing to provide the necessary backing for the latest cycle.
While the HKCA is eager to obtain MEF assistance, a long-term deal with an independent partner would reduce its reliance on government funding.
“I’ve said this for a long time and that is we want to be self-sufficient and stand on our own two feet,” said Cutler.
“On the back of this agreement, should it come through, the event’s success would not be reliant on funding from public sources, though government assistance is still important to us.”
Cutler is convinced that Hong Kong possesses, in the Sixes, a precious gem that can sparkle around the world given its broad appeal.
“Hong Kong has always been a contributor to world cricket with the Sixes,” he said. “What Hong Kong did really well with the Sixes is get people to come to Hong Kong to watch cricket at a time nobody really thought of Hong Kong as a cricketing nation apart from being a British colony.”
The HKCA, which next week is set to approve its new strategy including a comprehensive rebrand, last month staged its first franchise-based tournament, the DTC Mobile Hong Kong T20 Blitz.
Although bad weather meant no play was possible on the final day, the concept took hold in the city and the four franchises showed enthusiasm in assembling strong squads.
The Kowloon Cantons were able to secure the services of former Australian captain Michael Clarke, one of the biggest names in world cricket even though he has retired from tests and limited-overs internationals.
Despite the weather conditions, the Blitz has established itself on the local calendar, prompting some to question whether there is a need for the Hong Kong Sixes to be revived.
Cutler said he believed Hong Kong had the ability to sustain two world-class tournaments.
“There is a place for the Sixes and the Blitz in Hong Kong,” said Cutler. “We took a calculated risk in running the Blitz considering the resources it took up.
“But I think everybody who may have been a sceptic has been converted, if not much more amenable to the concept of Hong Kong hosting a franchise-based tournament.
“I believe we have created a true asset [with the Blitz] that can bookend the season with the Sixes and work off each other.
“There is nationalistic pride that comes with the Sixes as it expands in that shorter, more palatable version to non-cricketing countries and it can work alongside a franchise T20 tournament that gives opportunities to local and international businesses to own a piece of it.
“I think Hong Kong cricket and Hong Kong can sustain both. The elephant in the room is ensuring we have the facilities to host world-class events.”