Finally, the Pakistan Super League (PSL) has kickstarted in the United Arab Emirates. Just before this mega event, Najam Sethi, Chairman PSL shared some interesting facts with More Magazine about the challenges he faced from within the PCB and outside during the whole journey. Let’s find out what he says;
PSL has finally started, how excited you are and what challenges you faced in organizing it?
Najam Sethi: Yes, we are excited, but it is a blend of both excitement and stress since it is for the first time in the history of Pakistan that such a mega event is happening which has been opposed extensively by almost everyone on the board but the best thing is, the dream has turned into reality.
We faced objections from our top management who were very much convinced that PCB couldn’t hold an event like Pakistan Super League (PSL). Their opinion was supported by the fact that PCB didn’t have the expertise, marketing team and the professionalism. Other than our fears, past bad executions of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at the time of holding their leagues were also a discouraging factor for the management.
The top bosses were more persuaded to sell teams to franchises and outsource the whole event. For outsourcing the event, we advertised, but the applicants could not fulfill our requirements. There was no other way but to do things on our own. I took approval from the board and hired consultants who gave us a roadmap of carrying out few things on our own and outsource the rest.
Another hiccup for us was the $1.7 million budget, prepared by our consultants, which was never acceptable to us. I wanted to do it in half the estimated amount. Our concerns of remaining short of forecasted revenues put me in a state of limbo because such an equation could have ruined the whole idea of attracting more investors in future.
In addition to this, continued opposition from PCB staff members was dragging us slow during the entire strategy making process, I, therefore, put my foot down and played a little trick. I offered PCB staff 50% raise whoever worked for PSL and at the same time spoke my mind about importing human resource out of PCB. Eventually, everyone accepted the offer happily, and now they are working round the clock for making this event a success.
MCL has been rescheduled, how badly it will effect PSL?
Najam Sethi: I am disappointed, and we have written a letter to ICC in protest highlighting the clauses of agreement between Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) and MCL under which MCL was scheduled to be held from January 22 till February 2nd and PSL was due to take place from February 4th till February 23rd.
Master Champion League planned their matches in Dubai, and Abu-Dhabi and our venues were Dubai and Sharjah. Not only MCL and ECB altered the dates of events but also they changed places without our consultation. There is an overlap of one week now.
ECB takes the stance that MCL contracted for ten years hence offered more money whereas PCB has already shown the intention of moving the venue of PSL out of UAE in the coming years. Therefore, the business propositions compelled them to prioritize MCL over the PSL.
Are there any compensations from ECB?
Najam Sethi: No there are not. And what other choices we have. We can’t afford to delay the event anymore.
There seems no proper marketing of PSL as well as the general shout, what are the business proposition for PCB?
Najam Sethi: We have already announced a figure of $ 9.3 million which we have received from our franchisees except for $ 1 million which we are expecting soon. We are organizing the whole first PSL episode out of this budget.
As a part of our strategy, we have kept our expenses low which is indeed translating into profits. Although I have informed the board about zero profit in the first year, I am trying my best to generate a good profit which looks very much possible from here.
As far as the marketing is concerned, we have sold the slot to Blitz, who also seems to be happy with the results.
To avoid their losses franchises may undergo match fixing, how you can stop them?
Najam Sethi: No league can give you the guarantee on match fixing. But there is always a deterrence against this through the rules of ICC and monitoring teams. For keeping this menace away from PSL, there is already a deep level of intelligence. Our head of security is an ISI colonel.
Besides, we have hired an international company to monitor each and every ball in the tournament under mathematical models to figure out if everything is going right or there is something fishy. So we have covered all the angles.
Already, ICC people have come and delivered lectures to the franchises on it with full guidance. We have also informed them what might happen if you get caught doing such a thing.
Other than that, there would be high security in their hotels where they reside. We are taking all the possible security measures which are the global standard.
Should PSL be compared with IPL?
Najam Sethi: We cannot compare it with IPL because the financial power of Indian cricket market is 100 times bigger than us.
Besides, IPL has certain things to their credit; they started journey years before us, India controls ICC, they play IPL in their home country, etc. Therefore, there is no point of comparing us with IPL since PSL has yet to take off.
Unfortunately, we are playing out of our hometown which makes us worry about few extra things such as filling the stadiums and of course, this fact is not a concern for IPL because they play it in their own country.
But at the same time, IPL is facing some harsh realities. Recently Pepsi pulled out of IPL owing to corrupt practices. They canceled a staggering $78 million contract with the league because they didn’t want to be associated with a controversy. Contrary to this, Pepsi is still linked with PCB.
Through PSL, how long it will take to bring International Cricket back in Pakistan?
Najam Sethi: It is a tough prediction. We had made a full plan for the arrival of Ireland team in September 2014 for three matches before World Cup. We had to cancel our plan on the reports of intelligence agencies, and we all know that just after a week we witnessed an attack in Karachi.
The background gives you a clear picture that it is not in our hands, rather, it depends on upon the government for providing us a safe environment. Only then we can turn things around. Potentially, Pakistan is the second biggest place for cricket after India, and the Indo-Pak cricket series is even larger than the Ashes.
I am very hopeful that this year Indian government permit BCCI for playing matches with Pakistan.
The direct answer to your question is that I am trying my best to convince the foreign teams for 1 or 2 matches in Lahore and Karachi when second PSL episode takes place provided the security situation gets back to normal.
Even I tried hard to convince foreign players this time by offering them a double fee, but no one agreed because of security issues.
And this is not only happening to us; Australia has recently pulled out of Bangladesh under 19, and we are also thinking about a similar decision.
Unless we resolve the issue of security and peace in Pakistan, the Cricket will not come back to this country.
But I tell you that Cricket has to get back to Pakistan, and PSL is the gateway. If things go as per our plans, the subsequent episodes of PSL will bring the foreign players to us, and they will eventually brief the world about our hospitality and peaceful environment in Pakistan.
The success of PSL relies upon the revenue franchises will earn, but they are already screaming about losses, what is your take on it?
Najam Sethi: PSL is a ten year long project, and one should not expect profits in the first year.
Although, PSL is happening for the first time, but all franchises are experienced players of their respective industries. We have already given them a complete outline of their expenses and revenues. They are well aware of losses in the first year and profits in the subsequent episodes.
According to our cautious estimates, two out of five partners will surely make the profit in the 1st year. One will reach the break even point and rest of the two may incur losses. Even they can come close to a tiny loss if they play dynamically. It all depends on how best they exploit their merchandising.
You have talked about compensation for loss makers, what you will give them?
Najam Sethi: No, we are not providing any compensation. Franchises will get money from a central pool. Well, in that way you can say it a compensation. The money in the central pool will come from the sale of tickets and other revenue streams.
We will take only 15% and the rest will be distributed among franchises as their revenue. PCB’s primary motive is that franchises make a minimal loss if they have to. After all, they are our assets and have to be valuable. PCB can always snatch more revenue by selling 6th and 7th team in future. There will be our time of profit making.
To tell you the actual status, as we speak, they are locking sponsors, and they have started making money already.
Through your magazine, I request the people to be our supporter and ignore the petty issues. The PSL is for Pakistan, and if it becomes a success story, the whole nation will enjoy the fruits.