Champions League Twenty20

The Champions League Twenty20 was a cricket tournament held between 2009 and 2014. Whilst now abandoned, the importance of the league cannot be underestimated.

Originally launched in 2008, the first competition of the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) was held in October 2009. It was made up of top domestic teams (between 10 and 12) from a total of 8 major cricketing countries and jointly owned by the BCCI, Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa.

The tournament was usually held between September and October each year during the course of two or three weeks as a round-robin tournament with knockouts in the final stages. The CLT20 took place in either India or South Africa.

Whilst the CLT20 was still in existence, between 10 and 12 teams participated in the tournament.

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Background and history of the CLT20

The Champion League Twenty20 was created right after the first IPL season for the simple reason that the cricket authorities of India, Australia and South Africa hoped to capitalise on the success of the IPL.

Originally announced in September 2007, the first season was scheduled for October 2008. However, various issues prevented that from happening. First, players from the Indian Cricket League, which was not sanctioned by the BCCI, were barred from participating. Then, the tournament’s dates clashed with that of the ICC Champions Trophy, which resulted in the CLT20 being moved to December 2008. But when Mumbai suffered terrorist attacks in November 2008, the organizers were once again forced to push back and finally, the CLT20 was scheduled for September 2009.

Reception of the CLT20

Regardless of some initial problems, the tournament did receive much support since its inception. This was partly owed to the huge prize pool of $6 million, which the organisers described as the "the single largest prize money pool in any cricket tournament so far".

The prize money was distributed as follows:

  • $2.5 million – Winners
  • $1.3 million – Runners-up
  • $500,000 – 2nd and 3rd Runners-up
  • $200,000 – Teams eliminated in the group stage

Ten-year broadcasting rights were purchased by ESPN Star Sports to the tune of $900 million.

Unfortunately, however, the Indian audience was not very interested in the first edition of the tournament. Viewership was poor despite the tournament being held in India. And attendance was generally low as well.

Indeed, Bharti Airtel, who had bought title sponsorships for three years from 2009 onwards, decided to end their sponsorship after only two years. Nokia replaced Bharti Airtel with a 4-year contract, but then also withdrew after only one year.

Marketing campaigns and brand ambassadors (such as Shahrukh Khan) were introduced to improve the reception of the tournament and thus the ratings. For a short while that worked, but ultimately not to the satisfaction of the organisers.

But whilst the audience wasn’t very interested in the tournament, it did have an impact on the participating teams, some of which were low-profile, by providing a global stage and much-needed financial support.

Some of the players who competed in the CLT20 managed to score contracts in much more high-profile teams in the IPL.

Further interesting information about the CLT20

Each edition of the CLT20 was actually held in a different format and different numbers of teams participated. What remained the same was the fact that each edition had a group stage and a 2-round knockout stage.

From 2011 onwards, a qualifying stage was introduced with direct entrants only coming from India, South Africa and Australia.

Whilst a total of 10 to 12 teams took place in each edition of the CLT20, the countries they were from varied. Teams from Australia, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa and the West Indies participated in each edition. England only took part in three editions and actually refused further participation from 2012 onwards because the tournament’s dates clashed with their domestic season.

Pakistan was not invited until 2012 to take part, which was due to the hostilities with India, further exacerbated after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The three shareholding countries behind the tournament were each meant to also host it during various editions. However, Australia was ruled out due to its unfavourable weather in September, and for broadcasting reasons, India received first right for at least 5 out of the 10 first editions. Ultimately, the tournament was hosted in India during four of the six seasons the CLT20 was being held.

The Champions

Despite of the decent number of teams participating in the CLT20, only four different teams ever won the title:

  • 2009 – New South Wales Blues
  • 2010 – Chennai Super Kings
  • 2011 – Mumbai Indians
  • 2012 – Sydney Sixers
  • 2013 – Mumbai Indians
  • 2014 – Chennai Super Kings

The End of the CLT20

Whilst a tournament had been planned for the 2015 edition, the three founding cricket boards decided to cancel it, which was announced in July 2015. Their decision was based on economical reasons such as continued poor viewership and unstable sponsorship as much as on the lack of interest by the audience. Other factors necessary for holding such a tournament were also impeded and ultimately resulted in the end of the CLT20.

Read more here.

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