T10 League franchisee upbeat about league model, commercial potential

Mohammed Morani has seen the business of entertainment and sports from close quarters than many of the leading sports entrepreneurs. The man behind many Indian Premier League grand openings, ensuring early profits for the Kolkata Knight Riders and the successful launch of the professional league in cricket’s shortest format – T10 League in the UAE last year – Morani successfully wears many hats as an entertainment professional.

A force to reckon with in entertainment, films, television, talent management, sports management, and allied avenues in sports and entertainment industry, Morani is now all set to exploit his skills and traits as a sports entrepreneurs in his new avatar as the co-owner of the T10 Cricket League team Northern Warriors. The Cineyug Managing Director has jointly acquired the franchisee of the T10 team Northern Warriors as the league expanded from the six teams in Season one to eight for the second edition, which gets underway on November 23 in the UAE.

Morani, also the Managing Director of the Northern Warriors, co-owns the team with the Founder Director Shabaz Elias.

This is the realisation of a long cherished dream for Morani. “As an entrepreneur and sports manager, I was keen to venture into a sports club franchisee ownership for a very long time. Opportunity came calling with the T10 League expansion. I immediately told my friend and T10 League chairman Shaji ul Mulk about my plans to own one of the new teams. For various reasons. First, it is an Indian team. Secondly, the league model is very exciting,” Morani told InsideSport.co. “Mulk and Elias readily agreed.”

An astute entrepreneur, who has the acumen to assess the commercial potential of a sports and entertainment property, finds the T10 League to be the most successful cricket league after the Indian Premier League. The assessment is not emotional. This is rather driven by analysis and combination and permutations based on all his experience. “The T10 Cricket format is like a 90-minute entertainment thriller. A recipe for sports blockbuster. In cricket parlance, this is a live highlights package. Just like the highlights package of any other cricket match, in a T10 game, every ball will contribute to the final outcome. A dot ball at any stage will be as big a celebration as a six our a sequence of boundaries. That is the entertainment quotient of this league.

“In the inaugural season last year, we have seen 18,000 to 20,000 people in all the games at any given time. That shows the mass appeal of the game. The four-day league action on Sony Sports Network channels has seen considerable broadcast success even though there was not much marketing. Even as the deal with Sony was signed very late, that success gave us the vision to expand this elite product,” says Morani, who has contributed to the league’s success as a consultant.

There was a certain surge in the television ratings with each game. Organiser had claimed better per match audience than the five-season-old Pakistan Super League. The T10 peak TV audience in Pakistan was reported to be 65% higher than the PSL numbers.

The League, from November 23 to December 2 this year, will have 29 games over the span of 11 days. The schedule will include two to three games every day. Sony will have quality time to promote the event, which the broadcaster has got on its own terms. Sony wanted the league to last longer. The League owners seeing the value agreed to meet the broadcasters’ demand. Sony has acquired exclusive broadcast rights for India and the MENA regions. The action will also be streamed live on SonyLiv. The media rights tie-up makes the league a good property for the stake holders, which in the first year had given “certain” returns to all the franchisees.

The 90-minute match means the football- or hockey-like pace and excitement. Thus, the format is also being considered as cricket’s best bet for a permanent place in the Olympics. ICC has acknowledged it with its approval for the second season, too, after a due diligence. ICC has also advised its member countries to issue No Objection Certificate (NOC) to their players to participate in the event.

“This direct approval from ICC for T10 League gives our partners, stakeholders and more importantly the players a much-needed boost. Having said that, it additionally gives us the responsibility to ensure we keep growing year-on-year and make this format globally acceptable,” the league chairman Shaji ul Mulk has said in a statement.

The league will also have a strong India connect for the fact that five of the eight teams have Indian owners. Virender Sehwag is the brand ambassador of the league that has sport’s big names like Eoin Morgan (England), Rashid Khan (Afghanistan), veteran Shahid Afridi (Pakistan), Shoaib Malik (Pakistan), Shane Watson (Australia), Sunil Narine (West Indies), Darren Sami (West Indies) and Brendon McCullum (New Zealand) as the icon players.

In addition to Sony in India and the MENA region, the organisers have also inked broadcast deals with TEN Cricket for Pakistan, 1tv Afghanistan, Sony Ten 5 for the UK and Willow TV for the USA.

Morani, who is committed to ensuring the sport relives the legacy of Duleep Sinh and Ranji in this new format of the game, is excited about the commercial value he is seeing in the league. “The competition promises huge ROIs. There are big names. All the current and former international stars who guarantee success to global professional cricket leagues are part of the T10 League. Since Indian corporates own five teams in the league, the Indian interest and connect will always be there. The live action on Sony brings in more value to the sponsors who associate with the league to promote their brands. This all will culminate into a win, win situation for all stakeholders,” claims Morani.