Name a sport that will connect Denmark, Russia, Spain, Romania, Italy, France, Germany and The Netherlands? Football shall be the first and only answer – the game that sportingly unites Europe.
Sporting passion of Indian sub-continent, with status of a proverbial religion in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, cricket will struggle to find its footprint in the continent obsessed with football.
There is one passionate cricketer who has joined forces with successful football professionals to realise the goal of making cricket Europe’s number one bat and ball team sport in the next 20 years. Daniel Weston, the German national cricket team wicketkeeper, is walking the talk. He brings to the table his understanding of the sport as an international cricketer and professional wisdom of a commodity and tech investor, trader and hedge fund manager that he has been. That creates an apt professional to draw a road map with a right amalgam to cater to the needs of the sport and the market.
To establish the ‘Champions League of European Cricket’ – European Cricket League – in the land with deep-rooted professional club football culture akin to an established industry, Weston has teamed up with established professionals with a successful track record in commercial sphere of football.
Before moving on to Weston’s vision and plans, which he shared with insidesport.co, let us meet the team that is in charge to establish and grow cricket professionally in a sporting sphere that belongs to football.
European Cricket League CEO Roger Feiner is a former Director of Broadcasting at FIFA, the world governing body for football. As an eminent broadcast professional, Feiner has also held key positions of MD at Teleclub Sport and VP of MySport, Europe’s leading sports content platforms.
The league’s Board Member Thomas Klooz and President Frank Leenders bring with them the experience of leading positions in UEFA where they have respectively been CEO and MD of Team Marketing. The duo has also held professional responsibilities of Marketing for Eurovision song contest, and been Board Members FIBA Media and Marketing.
German men’s team wicketkeeper Weston, himself, besides being a global macro hedge fund manager, has been the founder of German Cricket TV.
As the team gears up for the first edition of the European Cricket League, insidesport.co spoke to Weston on the challenges, vision and goals for the league that has been perceived as a vehicle to take and establish cricket across Europe.
InsideSport: How ECL core management team’s background in football will be helpful in establishing Europe’s professional league for cricket, considering that the sport does not have a considerable market in the region beyond the UK.
Daniel Weston: Football is so strong because of the multi-sport club structure that reaches every corner of Europe, which focuses on local clubs playing in leagues that have relegation, promotion and the champions league pathway. The strongest clubs rise and the weaker clubs fall.
We believe that by creating the ECL, which is actually the Champions League of European Cricket, we will ignite clubs all over Europe to play cricket in local leagues that they are inspired to win so that they can reach the ECL. Any club playing in European domestic leagues now can win their domestic league which then gets them invited to the ECL.
Football works so well in Europe, so we have to use footballs structures from grassroots junior setups to the elite structures. This can only be done by inspiring clubs all over Europe to start to play cricket. Clubs are what develop junior sport and now I hope cricket is in more clubs so that more juniors start to play.
The cricketers are there, now the Champions League is too – so there is no excuse to join a club.
IS: How do you plan to deal with the challenge from Euro T20 Slam, the league that features more established cricketing nations from Europe?
DW: It’s not a challenge, it’s more cricket for Europe which is great and I wish them the best of luck!
IS: How do you see cricket growing commercially in a market obsessed with football?
DW: It’s ok to like football in winter, and cricket in summer! Smiles.
For many of us cricket lovers, the goal is to make cricket Europe’s number one team bat and ball sport in the next 20 years. The ECL will be one of many vehicles in the European cricket community that will help achieve our goal.
Visionaries behind bringing eight European nations together to compete and find the Champion Cricket Club of Europe have the following five-point programme to achieve what they aspire for cricket in Europe over the next two decades.
> Igniting a will to win in current cricketers in Europe (by providing them a platform to do so)
> Inspire inactive cricketers to get involved in the game in their local community
> Inspire cricket loving parents to decide to coach their children and establish junior cricket programs
> Create awesome events with media coverage, that builds awareness of the sports growth and awakening on to the desks of the local governments and politicians
> Connect and integrate cricket as a new sport department within established European multi-sport clubs
“Real Madrid, Paris St Germain and FC Bayern and TUS Prien are ALL multi-sport clubs, that play football, handball, basketball, judo and many more sports. Why not cricket!?,” signs off Weston.
For now he and his team have made that first big leap by laying that strong foundation with the launch of the European Cricket League. The masses are uniting. The class will come with perseverance.