The Pros and Cons of Franchise Cricket

There is no doubt that franchise cricket has been the biggest phenomenon in the sport in the 21st century. The trend is to move away from traditional states and counties to provide new, city-based teams for supporters to get behind.

The intention was to widen the game and attract a new legion of fans. Franchise cricket has succeeded in that respect, but not everyone is happy.

For every advantage, there is a potential downside. There are huge debates in some parts of the world over the benefits and dangers of franchise cricket, so let’s take a look at both sides of the argument.

1. Pro: Attracting Bigger Audiences

Melbourne Cricket Crowd, Sports, Stadium
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This has already been touched upon, but it’s worth looking into this factor in greater detail. The biggest franchise competition of all is the Indian Premier League, which was founded in 2008.

The IPL is a T20 competition that is held annually and currently features ten teams from across India. If you tune into any game from the tournament, stadiums are packed to the extent that traditional forms of domestic cricket cannot hope to match.

The faster-paced action of T20 has a broader appeal, and when that’s mixed with the attraction of supporting city-based teams, franchise cricket takes advantage of a perfect storm.

2. Pro: The Best in The Business

Chris Lynn Cricket
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Bigger attendances lead to more revenue via advertising and live TV broadcasting rights. High-profile owners of some franchise teams will also invest their own money, which helps bring in the best T20 players.

Cricket fans want to see the biggest names in their sport, and the extra revenue helps to do this. The fees and salaries involved now mean that some cricketers focus solely on the franchise circuit and have even turned their backs on their national sides in some cases.

3. Pro: Growing The Game

USA batter Jaskaran Malhotra, Cricket
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Franchise cricket isn’t just for the established cricket nations. While India, Australia, West Indies, and the rest of the full member nations of the ICC have their own franchise competitions, the concept has expanded into other parts of the world.

2023 saw the first edition of Major League Cricket in the USA, while the Global T20 in Canada returned after a hiatus. Abu Dhabi also has a T10 League, and the tournaments are likely to increase in the future.

Top international players feature in these events, so it’s hard to argue with the theory that franchise cricket really is growing the game.

4. Pro: A Huge Boost for Women’s Cricket

Stars vs West Indies women's cricket 2014
Image Credit: NAPARAZZI – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons/Southern Stars vs West Indies 2014.

Arguably, the biggest beneficiaries of franchise tournaments are the women. Established competitions such as the IPL and the Big Bash in Australia have belatedly introduced women’s tournaments to run alongside the men’s equivalents.

In the Hundred in the UK, a women’s version was in place when the tournament debuted in 2021. TV broadcasters gave equal air time to both competitions, and the profile of female cricketers rose exponentially. Breaking news stories indicate that some countries are now paying equal salaries to women and men, and the credit here has to go to the rise of the franchise game.

Some disparity remains: A recent report from The Hundred revealed that umpires in the men’s game were being paid up to three times as much as those who were officiating in the women’s tournament.

Work is to be done, but franchise cricket is moving the women’s game in the right direction. An increased profile attracts more fans and players, which can only be a positive.

5. Con: Too Much of a Good Thing

Cricket, Esteghlal Celebrate IPL Title Win at Azadi Stadium
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Franchise tournaments have to meet demand, but there is a temptation to squeeze too much out of the paying public. The Indian Premier League dominates the calendar through April and May, with each team playing 14 games ahead of a series of playoffs.

Some argue that this is too long and that there are too many meaningless games towards the end of the group stages.

It’s interesting to note that the Big Bash tournament in Australia has reduced the group format for the 2023/24 edition. Teams will now play ten games per side in the regular season instead of the previous set of 14.

It’s a delicate balance for the organizers, and they need to establish how much is too much. Casual viewers outside of the country in question may elect to switch off, but if there is demand among home fans for tickets, the schedules will remain, or they may expand.

6. Con: The Disenfranchised

2023 Hundred final, cricket
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Franchise cricket is hotly debated in the UK, where the rise of The Hundred has divided the fanbase. While the top English cricketers sign up for the franchise tournament, the long-established 50-over Cup is relegated to a second team competition.

Many fans remain loyal to their county sides and are concerned about their futures. Franchise cricket threatens the existing setup in many countries across the cricketing world.

7. Con: A Loss to The International Game

South Africa vs. Australia, Cricket
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There is a trend for players to retire from international cricket and concentrate on the franchise circuit. In the main, those cricketers are reaching the ends of their respective careers, but that isn’t always the case, and some of the best players have quit their national teams before their time.

There have also been cases where players turn out for franchise sides as a priority over their national setup. Across August and September 2023, a weakened South African team took on Australia in a T20 series, suffering heavy defeats to the full-strength Aussies.

The threat to international cricket is clear, and that’s another reason why many fans are wary of the franchises.

Is Franchise Cricket Good for The Sport?

Cricket fan, sports fan
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It’s all about balance, and this article shows that there are arguments for and against franchise cricket. For many cricket fans, the threat to the established international and domestic setup provides the biggest concerns.

One thing is sure and franchise tournaments are not going away. They will only increase from this point, so the established international and domestic competitions will have to find a way of working with them.