Mon, 10 May 2021

Mayor of London wants to bring IPL to Lord's

10 Apr 2021, 00:53 GMT+10

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, wants to bring the IPL to the city, with Surrey said to be in preliminary talks with authorities in India to explore the possibility.

London hosts NFL (American football) and MLB (US baseball) games regularly but Khan, who is seeking re-election as mayor, believes IPL matches in the city - and eventually around the country - could tap into a more diverse audience than the sport does currently.

"Surrey are speaking to teams in India and colleagues in the BCCI and IPL," Khan said at a cricket club in southwest London. "The first step will be friendlies and exhibition matches. We want to get them going, maybe even this year if we make progress as we are doing with the pandemic. It has to be Covid-safe, of course. We have to bang the drum for our city, and sport is one way to do this."

The BCCI have not indicated any desire publicly and the only times they have played the IPL outside India is when they were compelled to by circumstances: in 2009, they moved the tournament to South Africa because general elections were ongoing in India at the same time; in 2014, for the same reason, they played the opening two weeks of the tournament in the UAE; and last year, they first postponed the event and then staged the all of it in the UAE because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rajasthan Royals did play a game against Middlesex in 2009 at Lord's in the British Asian Cup but that remains the only game played by an IPL franchise in the UK. Rajasthan do have a number of England players as well as an academy in Surrey.

"This is part of my plan to build a better London after the pandemic," Khan said. "I know Londoners are hungry to see more of the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant and, with two of the world's greatest cricket grounds in Lord's and The Kia Oval, London is ideally placed to host IPL matches. I know we can see our capital confirmed as the undisputed sporting capital of the world."

Surrey have long been interested in hosting IPL games at The Oval and the effects of the pandemic - with counties expected to be hit with a combined Pound 100m loss - has sharpened ambitions.

"We would love to bring the IPL to London and other areas of England," Surrey chairman Richard Thompson recently told the Daily Mail. "We think that's the silver bullet in terms of reaching a more diverse audience for cricket in this country.

"We could stage games in the same way Jacksonville Jaguars, for one, play legitimate NFL games in London. The windfalls that staging the Champions Trophy and World Cup provided for English cricket were huge and we see the IPL on that level.

"This could be worth tens of millions to the English game. We have all lost so much money through Covid that we have to be more creative and provide cricket that generates revenue you wouldn't otherwise have made. That's why I think IPL is a no-brainer."

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