From UAE to South Africa, cricket’s transition into global entertainment machine gathers pace

From UAE to South Africa, cricket’s transition into global entertainment machine gathers pace
Cricket South Africa experienced a chaotic turnover of key personnel, including chief executive officers, captains, and coaches, which served to shatter public confidence and create instability. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 January 2023

From UAE to South Africa, cricket’s transition into global entertainment machine gathers pace

From UAE to South Africa, cricket’s transition into global entertainment machine gathers pace
  • As game generates big financial rewards for players, owners, other stakeholders, measures necessary to stop those hoping to benefit financially from illegal, nefarious activity

If further evidence of the Hollywood- or Bollywood-ization of cricket was needed, then it was in abundance at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Jan. 13.

Prior to the opening match of the DP World ILT20, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, co-owner of the Abu Dhabi Knight Riders, addressed the crowd and global viewers to thank those who made the tournament possible. He also took the opportunity to remind those watching about his new film, which represents his first in four years.

The other performers were Indian rapper Badshah, who composed and sung the theme song of the league, American singer-songwriter Jason Derulo, and Trinidadian cricketer Dwayne Bravo, playing for MI Emirates in the competition.

Once the match got underway, Dubai Capitals totalled 187 for the loss of six wickets, captain Rovman Powell scoring 48 runs from 29 balls. This proved to be too much for the Knight Riders, who registered only 114 in their 20 overs.

Three days earlier, at Newlands cricket ground in Cape Town, the Betway SA20 tournament was launched. In comparable manner to Dubai, the opening ceremony featured rapper Sho Madjozi and singer Master KG, both South Africans, along with supporting dancers.

More importantly, there were enough spectators, diverse in age, gender, and race, to fill Newlands for the first time in more than three years.

During this time, Cricket South Africa experienced a chaotic turnover of key personnel, including chief executive officers, captains, and coaches, which served to shatter public confidence and create instability. An attempt to launch a franchised T20 competition, lacking television rights and sponsorship, failed in 2018.

This time around the franchisees are seasoned India Premier League team owners, and a 10-year broadcast rights agreement is in place with Viacom 18, and the title sponsor is Betway. This is a Malta-based online betting and gaming company, owned by Super Group, a global digital gaming firm.

Additionally, the competition is not owned or run solely by CSA, but by Africa Cricket Development (PTY) Ltd. Newly formed in 2022, CSA’s stake is 50 percent, SuperSport, a South Africa-based group of television channels, has 30 percent, and a former chief operating officer of the IPL, Sundar Raman, has 20 percent.

The global reach of SA20 is impressive in terms of both ownership and audience, Viacom 18 providing access to the Indian market and SuperSport to sub-Saharan Africa.

So far, spectators have been impressed. As well as the full house at Newlands, the subsequent matches at Kingsmead, Durban, and St. George’s Park, Gqeberha, were sold out.

Apart from the cricket, various other forms of entertainment are being provided to maintain the interest of spectators. At the first game to be held at the Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, on Jan. 17, so-called match-day activations included stilt-walkers, jugglers, a virtual reality booth, rappers, DJs, and fireworks.

Spectators at all matches, who are aged over 18, have an opportunity to benefit from Betway’s Catch a Million prize by one-handedly catching a six which has been hit into the crowd. In an indication of the encouraging start made by SA20, Betway announced on day eight, Jan. 17, that it was doubling the prize money to $116,000 (2 million rand) and rebranding the opportunity, Betway Catch R2million.

By Jan. 19, 13 of the 33 matches had been completed, with the five teams locked very tightly, only one point separating second from bottom. In match 13, Pretoria Capitals’ comfortable victory put them top with three wins out of four. The bottom team, Sunrisers Eastern Cape, secured their second win in three days against the previous joint top team, MI Cape Town, in a thrilling contest. Chasing a target of 172, the Sunrisers looked to be out of the match after 15 overs, having lost six wickets for 101 runs. However, Marco Jansen smashed 66 runs in 27 balls, against high-quality bowling, to propel his team to victory.

In the UAE, as of Jan. 18, seven of the 34 matches had been completed. The MI Emirates, the Gulf Giants, and the Desert Vipers have each won their first two matches. At the bottom of the table, both the Sharjah Warriors and the Abu Dhabi Knight Riders have lost their first three matches, so have some ground to make up.

Notable performances have come from one of England’s most itinerant cricketers, Alex Hales, who has scored 83 not out and 64 in his two innings, while Bravo proved that he can entertain on the pitch as well as the stage with three wickets for 25 in the MI Emirates win against Sharjah Warriors.

Although it is too early to be sure of the front-runners, it is very clear that the rapid growth of T20 cricket enlarges the market for betting, some of it unregulated. Estimates place a 2021 value on the global sports betting market of between $77 billion and $90 billion, with a compound growth rate of around 10 percent forecast up to 2030.

The attraction of betting on T20 cricket is that it provides an outcome quickly. There are specialist websites which provide forecasts of results and player performance based on data analysis. A whole new sub-sector has emerged but, with it, come issues.

The International Cricket Council has an anti-corruption unit, with a commitment to protect all forms of international cricket played under the aegis of the council and its members. Protection of domestic cricket is the responsibility of the boards of full members. However, associate members organizing tournaments with a certain number of international players must obtain a licence from the ICC that involves having an anti-corruption strategy in place.

Cricket’s evolution into a sport of high-intensity entertainment on and off the field is generating big financial rewards for players, owners, cricket boards, media channels, commentators, analysts, sponsors, and advertisers. It is also attracting those who seek to benefit financially from illegal or nefarious activity centered on the game.

Those responsible for policing these activities have a challenging task ahead to preserve the game’s integrity amidst the spectacle of T20 cricket.

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‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season

‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season
Updated 28 January 2023

‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season

‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season

DIRIYAH: Formula E is back for its ninth season and after a two-week break following an opener in Mexico City, the Diriyah E-Prix kicked off on Friday in the Saudi capital with two days of racing on the Diriyah Street Course.

TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team driver Pascal Wehrlein won round two of ABB FIA Formula E.

British racer Jake Dennis for team Avalanche Andretti said that the big difference between the Gen3 car from the Gen2 is in the grip and power of the vehicles. “But I think we did a really good debut night race here. You know, it was a lot of overtaking for everyone. It seemed like the race was action-packed the whole time. So I think we can be really happy with, you know, the good show and the pre-race build looks pretty cool as well with the fireworks and the drone display. So yeah, very happy for everyone involved to put on a good show today,” he said.

“Yeah, those Gen3 cars are massively different. They have more power, we have different tires. Also, the energy management is completely different. So, we have a lot to learn still. We are still figuring out how this animal works. But overall, I think we were making good progress. Especially I did a big step from yesterday to today. finishing fifth today for me, is quite a good result,” said Rene Rast, a German driver with McLaren.

 This season, laps have replaced the previous 45-minute timed races and pit stops are also back with the “attack charge” to be trialed at select races. (Arab News)

Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa of Porsche described it as “awesome” to be back in Saudi Arabia. “It’s impressive to see the evolution of this place or the area, where everything’s being built around and how we are always welcome,” he said, adding that the Kingdom always gives a warm welcome to the Formula E. “The track is one of the most fun tracks of the year. And it’s a big challenge. But it’s a lot of fun.”

He added that every track is different, but that the Diriyah course has a lot of character. “You know, there’s a sector, too, it’s kind of high speed, you know, a good sequence of corners which is a good challenge for us and makes it fun,” he said.

This season, laps have replaced the previous 45-minute timed races and pit stops are also back with the “attack charge” to be trialed at select races.


LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million
Updated 28 January 2023

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million
  • Sotheby’s in New York sold the jersey, which James wore while playing for  Miami Heat in their 2013 NBA Finals Game 7 victory against San Antonio Spurs

NEW YORK: A game-worn jersey of basketball superstar LeBron James sold for $3.7 million at auction Friday, five times more than the previous record for one of his shirts.

The sale comes with interest even higher than usual in the 38-year-old LA Lakers icon as he nears the NBA’s all-time scoring record.

Sotheby’s in New York sold the jersey, which James wore while playing for the Miami Heat in their 2013 NBA Finals Game 7 victory against the San Antonio Spurs.

It smashed the previous record of $630,000 for a James All-Star jersey worn in 2020.

Game-worn sports memorabilia is big business.

Michael Jordan’s 1998 NBA Finals jersey, which sold for $10.1 million in September 2022, is currently the most valuable such item.

Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” jersey sold for $9.3 million at Sotheby’s in London last year.

James needs just 178 points to eclipse Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s tally of 38,387 points, one of the most coveted and longstanding records in basketball.

Sotheby’s also sold a dress worn by the late Princess Diana for $604,800 Friday.


Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart
Updated 28 January 2023

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart
  • Szoboszlai showed off his technical skills with the second goal in the 49th

LEIPZIG, Germany: Two sweetly hit shots from Dominik Szoboszlai lifted Leipzig to a 2-1 win over Stuttgart to close within a point of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on Friday.

Szoboszlai had not scored in the league since September before the Hungarian midfielder gave his team the lead with a swerving, dipping free kick in the 25th minute that goalkeeper Florian Muller could only push into his own net.

Szoboszlai showed off his technical skills with the second goal in the 49th, using one touch to control a header from teammate Andre Silva on the edge of the penalty area before letting the ball drop and striking a half-volley that left Muller no chance.

Embroiled in a fight to avoid relegation, Stuttgart had plenty of chances to exploit defensive errors from Leipzig but couldn’t convert enough of them.

Shortly before Szoboszlai’s second goal, Stuttgart’s Niklas Nartey could have leveled the score when he was one-on-one with Leipzig goalkeeper Janis Blaswich, but his shot bobbled wide of the far post instead. Stuttgart finally scored when Chris Führich powered a penalty past Blaswich in the 68th after a handball by defender Joško Gvardiol. That ensured a tense finish for Leipzig but the hosts largely kept Stuttgart at bay in the closing stages.

Bayern has drawn both of its opening games of 2023, including one against Leipzig last week, as it adapts to life without goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who has a broken leg. Bayern can restore a four-point lead if it beats fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.


Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup
Updated 28 January 2023

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup
  • England’s two best teams have a league showdown at Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15

MANCHESTER, England: Manchester City issued a statement of intent by knocking out Arsenal 1-0 in the FA Cup on Friday.

Nathan Ake’s 64th-minute goal settled the fourth-round match at Etihad Stadium and the result may yet reverberate through the rest of the season.

Arsenal lead City by five points at the top of the English Premier League, but their seven-game unbeaten run was ended by City, who have three straight wins in all competitions.

England’s two best teams have a league showdown at Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15. For now, City manager Pep Guardiola has gained an edge on his former assistant, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.

“I know how difficult it is to beat Arsenal. They lost one game in the Premier League, so I know how difficult it is,” Guardiola said.

Defender Ake was the unlikely match-winner after curling a low shot past goalkeeper Matt Turner.

Arsenal had chances while enjoying the better of the first half. Takehiro Tomiyasu and Leandro Trossard forced saves from City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, and Eddie Nketiah fired narrowly wide from close range.

The visitors were made to pay when City improved after the break and Ake produced the decisive strike.

“(I’m) really disappointed,” Arteta said. “We could have got much more out of the game. In the big moments in big matches you have to make the difference.”

While a place in the fifth round of the cup was at stake, it was impossible to ignore the wider context of a match between the teams who are the front-runners in the league race.

Arsenal have been in outstanding form, picking up 50 points after 19 games and playing with a confidence not seen since Arsene Wenger’s title-winning teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As if to underline the fact that the cup is neither team’s priority, Guardiola and Arteta left key players out of their lineups.

Guardiola benched Ederson, Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva.

Arteta left out Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, William Saliba, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Arsenal’s new signing, Trossard, was given his first start since joining from Brighton last week.

Despite the changes, Arsenal created the better chances in the first half but could not make them count.

City began to control the game after the break without creating many clear-cut openings until Ake broke the deadlock.

Substitute Alvarez’s strike from outside the box beat Turner, but came back off the post. Jack Grealish picked up the rebound and laid off to Ake, who hit a first-time effort low into the corner.

Elimination gives Arsenal one less distraction in its bid for the title and Arteta hopes to strengthen his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

The London club has been linked with a $74 million move for Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo, but Arteta would not answer specific questions about the player.

“We have been pretty active in the market. We have some necessities,” he said. “If something else is available, the club is willing to try to do it when it is reasonable and hopefully he’s a player that can improve our squad.”


Sprinting great Bolt says ‘stressful situation’ trying to recover lost millions

Sprinting great Bolt says ‘stressful situation’ trying to recover lost millions
Updated 28 January 2023

Sprinting great Bolt says ‘stressful situation’ trying to recover lost millions

Sprinting great Bolt says ‘stressful situation’ trying to recover lost millions
  • SSL said in a Jan. 12 statement that it had become aware of fraudulent activity by a former employee and had referred the matter to law enforcement

KINGSTON: World 100 and 200 meters record holder Usain Bolt said on Friday that it was a “stressful situation” trying to recover more than $12.7 million that has disappeared from his account with a Jamaican investment firm.

The 36-year-old Bolt earlier this month was informed that his account balance at Kingston-based Stocks and Securities Ltd. (SSL) had inexplicably dwindled to just $12,000, lawyer Linton Gordon told Reuters on Jan. 17.

“It’s tough you know, but I think through the years I’ve competed it has helped me to understand and focus on what matters,” Bolt told reporters on Friday.

He was speaking at the Gibson McCook Relays launch in Kingston where he was unveiled as the ambassador of the athletics meet, now in its 50th year.

“I will leave the matter in my lawyer’s hands and focus on my family, try not to think too much about it because it’s a stressful situation,” the 11-time world champion added.

SSL said in a Jan. 12 statement that it had become aware of fraudulent activity by a former employee and had referred the matter to law enforcement, adding it had taken steps to secure assets and strengthen protocols.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force said its fraud and financial investigation teams were probing “alleged fraudulent activities at (SSL) which are said to have affected the accounts of Mr. Usain Bolt among other individuals.”

Bolt’s account was intended to serve as a pension for the eight-time Olympic champion and for his parents, Gordon said.

Bolt retired in 2017 after dominating global sprinting for a decade, reviving a sport plagued by doping scandals and becoming a household name like Brazilian soccer great Pele and American boxing champion Muhammad Ali.