Cricket icons return to action in Masters Champions League
Dubai, UAE: Some of cricket’s greatest former international players are due to return to competitive action in a new and unique T20 tournament, which will be held annually across three stadiums in the United Arab Emirates.
The Masters Champions League, MCL, will feature a franchise format. However, unlike the IPL or Big Bash, teams will not be based on geographic location, and instead will simply include the best possible players a franchise owner can put together from the qualifying player base.
The tournament will be made up of six teams in its first year, with a total of 90 players taking part – 15 members per squad. The players must all be retired from international cricket.
The MCL has been approved for an initial 10 year period by the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), while the organiser and rights owner of the tournament, GM Sports, is also closely following the established guidelines set out by game’s governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC).
The inaugural MCL matches are due to take place over two weeks in early February, 2016. They will be played in the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium and Sharjah Cricket Stadium, which have all previously hosted major cricket tournaments, including the IPL, as well as first class and international Test matches.
The tournament was launched at a star studded affair on Wednesday at the Burj Al Arab, Dubai. It was attended by former greats including West Indian cricketing legend Brian Lara, Australian icon Adam Gilchrist, and retired Pakistani fast bowling great Wasim Akram. South Africa’s Jacques Kallis announced his involvement in the league in a pre-recorded video message. Former England captain Graham Gooch and past Australian captain Allan Border, both members of the MCL governing council, were also present.
Speaking at a press conference held in Dubai to mark the official launch of the tournament, Zafar Shah, MCL Chairman, said: “As with many other popular sports, there is a real desire amongst fans and cricketers to see some of the game's retired icons back in serious competition. The MCL will be a unique and competitive annual T20 tournament offering exactly that. It will allow fans to consistently watch quality and entertaining cricket involving some of the legends of the game.
"We are delighted to have secured the Emirates Cricket Board approval and we are following all ICC guidelines for this tournament, highlighting the importance of having cricket's governing bodies in support of a successful and well-regulated annual event.
"The UAE is an ideal location for this unique tournament: it’s easy to access from anywhere in the world; it has a large fan base already living in the country; and it has three fantastic international stadiums to host the matches. We hope that by holding the tournament in the UAE it might also inspire a new generation of Emiratis to take up the great game, leaving a lasting legacy in the country.
“Our ultimate vision is for the MCL to become the natural next step for all international players retiring from the professional game to extend their careers in a masters league.”
David East, CEO of the Emirates Cricket Board, was also present at the press conference. He commented: “The MCL is a fantastic idea, now being brought to life right here in the UAE, which is the perfect home for the tournament. The chance to watch proper, competitive action involving the greats of the game will inspire many and help ensure UAE cricket continues to go from strength to strength. We are delighted with the professionalism and experience of the organisers, including the people they are working with and the commitment and love of the game they all have. We are pleased to have given the MCL our extended approval and look forward to it getting underway next year.”
Brian Lara, one of the iconic retired players who has signed up to join the MCL, added: “I am thrilled and honoured to be taking part in what promises to be an exceptional display of competitive cricket. The UAE is a great location for a tournament like this to be based, with a big fan base in the country. I hope people get behind the MCL and support some of the heroes of the game as they look to extend their careers a little longer.
“The MCL is a tremendous force for good, which is partly what attracted me to it. The organisers have ensured giving back is a major theme, alongside inspiring cricket in the Middle East and in terms of leaving a lasting legacy.”
Further information about the MCL – the tournament structure, franchising, player auction, match dates and ticket sales – will all be uploaded to the tournament’s official website when it becomes available. The official MCL website can be found at: www.mcl2020.com. Fans and other followers can also keep up with the tournament via MCL’s official social media channels:
For further information or to request an interview with GM Sports, please contact: Sam Turvey, Tim Falconer, Harry Miskin or Iain Munro.
GM Sports operates under the umbrella of the Grand Midwest Group and has built a reputation over a relatively short space of time as an ardent promoter of sports activities in the Gulf region.
GM Sports started out with a local cricket club, GMW Royals, providing a platform for skilled cricketers to showcase their on field talents. It also owned and organised the "Grand Midwest Sharjah Sixes”, an ICC approved tournament (one of only two ICC approved Sixes tournaments in the world), which proved a highly successful tournament featuring many current international cricketers over four weeks in the Sharjah Stadium. The company still retains the naming rights to the Sharjah Cricket Academy.
By bringing current international cricketers into the region to play for their team on a regular basis, GM Sports has helped improve the quality of the domestic leagues and tournaments that GMW Royals participates in. It has since expanded into women’s football, supporting the local DWFA league by acquiring the rights to a team known as GMW Royals. Throughout all of this, GM Sports has remained in the limelight by promoting sports activities in both the local and international communities.
Promoting cricket and sport in the region is at the heart of everything GM Sports stands for. Whether it be through sponsoring major sporting events, teams and international cricket tournaments, or devising a charter and code of conduct for UAE cricket clubs, instilling a local passion for the game is a key component of the company’s overarching vision.
The Masters Champions League (MCL) is an innovative and exciting Twenty20 cricket format that is set to become a global event. The brainchild of Zafar Shah, Chairman of GM Sports, the MCL aims to invigorate Twenty20 cricket by re-introducing retired cricketing greats, some of whom have never played under the Twenty20 format. Through its involvement, GM Sports will not only provide millions of die-hard cricket fans with another chance to see their favourite stars back in the cricket arena, but it will also allow those legends to assist former teammates and comrades who face financial distress in retirement. The MCL has already generated significant support in the region, including official approval from the Emirates Cricket Board of the UAE, and continues to build momentum in the run up to its public launch.