Do we need the Champions League?

I complained yesterday on Twitter that the Champions League is ‘silly’, you see, the problem I have is that it isn’t really a ‘champions’ league, it’s more like an IPL invitational. 4 of the 10 teams in the final draw are from the IPL, all automatically into the ‘main’ draw despite 2 of them having never even been ‘champions’ of the IPL – one of these, the Mumbai Indians, has however won the Champions League, so make of that what you will.

Following my tweets I was informed by some helpful folk on twitter that the respective cricket boards of India, Australia and South Africa are the main financial contributors to the Champions League, and that this most likely a heavy contributing factor as to why they each have multiple teams taking part. And I don’t mind that they have multiple teams, but the IPL having 4 seems ridiculous – particularly when they pull players away from the their ‘home’ teams – the IPL teams have squads of about 30 players, surely they can find a playing 11 without needing to steal back their imports. England on the other hand apparently has no real financial stake in the tournament (maybe they feel the same way about it that I do), and are not even planning to be involved next year (maybe it more than a maybe?), this pretty clearly explains why both their teams get pushed in to the preceeding qualifying round.

Therein lies the problem – yes, maybe I’m just getting too caught up on the actual phrase “champions league” – but the tournament shouldn’t be run by the national boards, if there has to be a “champions league” (and I’m not convinced that there does, but I’m getting to that) then it needs to be run by the ICC – ie. independent of the national boards – and it should be only for the actual champions of the various leagues around the world.

The Indian Premier League champion. The Big Bash League champion. The South African T20 champion. The Friends Life T20 champion. The HRV Cup champion. The Caribbean T20 champion. The  Pakistani T20 champion. The Sri Lanka Premier League champion. Eight teams. All champions. No qualifying because you won last year. No qualifying because you contribute more money. No ifs. No buts. Just champions.

The tournament structure would be dead simple. Two groups of four, with groupings drawn randomly from an actual lottery – not ‘picked’ or ‘seeded’ by anyone based on some arbitrary non-sense. The groups play a series of round robin matches, then it moves into the knockout phase – quarter-finals , semi-finals and then the final. Playing two games a day, you’d only need a touch over a week to knock it all over.

I see two reasons for limiting it to 8 teams – it helps keep the tournament short, and at this point I don’t know that the Zimbabwean or Bangladeshi champions would be necessarily worthy of a spot – I’m especially wary of the strength of their squads if their international imports are unavailable. Even if they were included it wouldn’t be much of an issue, you would just switch to having two groups of 5 for the round-robin, much like the current tournament.

Something else that I would like to see changed is the cases where players qualify with multiple teams. I want to see a rule that if their ‘home’ team has qualified, then they are required to play for them. While ever the national boards *cough* BCCI *cough* are involved this won’t ever happen, but if the ICC were running it, then maybe. Financial compensation or not, its not fair on the other 6 teams if the IPL teams can just throw their money around to maintain their troop of international players. Protip: Build a solid T20 side that isn’t reliant on superstar imports.

An even better solution to me would be to, and this will probably divide opinions, scrap the Champions League completely. Yep, bin it. Give the 2-3 weeks back to the international and domestic cricketing calendars. I see numerous ‘pros’ that could flow on from this:

  • Stops countries having to schedule their domestic seasons to fit around the CL
  • Opportunity to make an expanded four-yearly World T20 the ‘pinnacle’ of Twenty20 cricket
  • Makes representing your country (not Indian money) the highest goal
  • If you want more global T20 action, then let teams play more than 8 international T20’s per year if they so desire.

I’ll cover more of my thoughts on the World T20 in a separate article (it was going to be part of this one, but it was getting a bit too long).

My ranting aside, perhaps if they really want to continue with the current format then all they need is a new name. One that doesn’t contain the word “Champions”, maybe something like “Assortment of teams from near the top of the tables in the leagues run by the financial contributors League”. Ok, I’ll stop now.