Hundred – The ECB is open to private investment as Thompson estimates the competition at £1 billion

Richard Thompson, president of the ECB, valued Stotte at more than £1 billion (US$1.2 billion) after confirming the ECB had received a bid for its latest tender and expected there would be others

Thompson suggested reports of the offer, initially revealed by Sky News as a £400m offer from Bridgepoint Group, had been “exaggerated”. The London-listed buyout firm was believed to be interested in a 75% stake in the competition, which appears unfeasible at the moment given Thompson’s insistence that any deal would have to ensure the ECB retains overall control over the competition. He also confirmed that premier counties are interested in the reported figure.

Speaking in Rawalpindi on Saturday after arriving to take England’s first Test in Pakistan for 17 years, Thompson, who took up his post in August, could not elaborate but reiterated the need to consider any proposal with England’s intentions cricket at heart.

“We have received an offer and I cannot comment on the actual offer,” he said. “I won’t be surprised if there are other offers. There is a frenzy in tournament broadcast rights right now, so the reality of more interest in the game should materialize. I am determined that we will not be opportunistic about this, we will be strategic. The tournament is only two years old. Obviously there is value in it and we expected there to be interest. Let’s see how things turn out.

“We understand that there is value in the tournament and the teams, there is a lot of other untapped value in the game that goes beyond the Hundred. We should not fixate on one thing. What we will not do is be opportunistic. You’ll think things through and understand that we’re not going to sell the game short. Lucknow Super Giants, one team in IPL was sold for a billion. One team. This should establish a benchmark for value. I think we have a long way to go before we do anything. If they want offers will be made.

“We cannot reveal what was in the offer, but it is not what it seems,” he added. “We will continue to speak to the county chairmen about it and if it was an absolute game-changer that would wipe out the debts of English cricket, of course we would look at it. But it’s not like that.

“I don’t think people are giving money away at the moment so I’d be surprised if someone came up with an offer that you have to stop the press and think about. But who knows?’

Owning a team is the most likely first port of call for investment and IPL owners go around having boosted their portfolios with investments in other franchise competitions such as the CPL, IT20 and SA20. One link that is regularly discussed is between the Mumbai Indians and the Oval Invincibles, especially since Mukesh Ambani, the owner of the Mumbai Indians, attended a Hundred match in the 2022 season along with Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who owns the Major League T20 by supporting the expansion of cricket across the United States.

Thompson, previously a sceptic when he was chairman of Surrey, has been open to private investment since taking office. But the importance of the ECB retaining control of its product is vital, not least for county cricket and the summer as a whole.

“I think the point is that we are the only country that plays in the northern hemisphere [during summer]” said Thompson. “I think the ECB will have to think very long and hard if we want to sell four or five weeks of the English summer to a third country. We all know how precious a schedule is right now. To look at the tournament and think we’re going to sell four or five weeks of the summer would be a huge decision.

“Incoming CEO Richard Gould, we opposed Hundred for two reasons. I won’t be a hypocrite. We came and saw the success. It reached an audience the Blast didn’t, people talk about Alice Capsey in a way they wouldn’t have if she hadn’t had the impact she did on the Hundred, and women’s cricket wouldn’t have broken through the way it did did. And we get unsolicited offers after two years. So all of these things mean that we should take a competition like this very seriously.

“Clearly it created a lot of tension in the sense that one of the reasons I was opposed in the first place was that I could see three domestic competitions, more international cricket, causing so many scheduling challenges – a fourth is not going to make things any easier .

“Absolutely that’s what happened, and we have to find a way to somehow work with four races where the Hundred don’t succeed at the expense of the Blast, one doesn’t cannibalize the other, and they can co-exist together.” It’s going to take some work, but we have to find a way because the Hundred are here to stay. We signed this deal until 2028 and people are making offers. It’s creating an impact two years from now that we didn’t expect to happen, but it’s also created some challenge and stress.”

Vithushan Ehantharajah is Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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