A different kind of T20 franchise competition

Fairbreak is a new women's T20 competition that might be the most global we have already.

Well before there was a fairbreak tournament, I met a man called Shaun Martyn, who told me he planned to set up a Women’s International Cricket League (WICL) This was in 2013 I think, and it was like someone explaining YouTube to you in 1998. Like, it made sense, but there was a big part of you thinking, wait, how on earth will this work.

And that is probably why Shaun Martyn took around a decade to actually get this thing working. When he came up with the idea, women weren’t professional. This is part of why he wanted to do it and why he was trying to open a pizzeria on Mars. The women’s game was still getting used to being part of the ICC. Many major boards ignored their teams. Associate women’s cricket was a bit of a wasteland at times.

One of the reasons cricket struggled to convince the Olympics that it should be there was the lack of quality in their women’s teams. And this was an Olympics board that understood the financial draw of the Indian and Pakistani teams to their revenue.

Martyn’s league, which became Fairbreak, was trying to make a competition work when nothing else was really happening with the game. That is clearly not the case now. The stories of the Brazilian, Thai and Bangladesh women have shown just how much things have changed.

But the other thing Fairbreak’s plan came up against was the boards themselves. Since Kerry Packer, boards have never really been huge fans of outsiders paying their players. It embarrasses them, takes money from their pocket, weakens their powers and usually shows them up for their treatment of players. All of that happened with this idea.

When Fairbreak started, ECB, BCCI and CA didn’t have professional players. And someone else is coming in and offering them money. But women’s cricket is becoming more important. People are watching it and sponsors like it. Often the same companies aren’t as interested in the men. And over the last few years all these boards actually wanted to make some money from women’s leagues. Having a big independent tournament out there wouldn’t help.

In the end the league wasn’t quite the rebel force it was supposed to be. Fairbreak partnered with Cricket Hong Kong. Which tactically was brilliant, as it meant this is an ICC sanctioned event. The women playing in it need NOCs, which is normal, but it’s not like the Indian cricket league and isn’t making people give up on international duties or careers.

But there are a couple of important parts of what they are doing that is still shaming the other major boards. For instance, they are paying the players a lot. Many players are on around 20K, which is comparable to what many men’s leagues pay players. The lower end wages for the hundred and women’s big bash really weren’t acceptable for such well-funded boards. This looks worse now that outside forces are paying well.

What Fairbreak is also doing is showing this can be funded. Most opponents of women’s sport still cling to the fact that it needs money from the men to survive. This is a league on its own, funded, and has also been able to get many of the best players in the world to it.

I mean, Susie Bates is playing in it. Proper cricket royalty for you right there. But there is also Sana Mir, Heather Knight, Mignon du Preez, Stafanie Taylor, and a bunch of other players you have probably seen or heard of.

However, maybe the most important thing is to look at these lists to see where the players come from Nepal, Hong Kong, PNG, Netherlands, Kuwait, the Philippines and Bhutan.

The fairbreak tournament is a properly global cricket event, and not just in name, but it is actually doing it, getting players from around the world.

There are 90 cricketers in total and they come from 36 different nations. This is something really new and interesting for cricket, and as happened with the first World Cup, has been pioneered by the women’s game.

The original idea of this tournament was also different to most of these popup cricket leagues. It wasn’t to cash in on a fad, get a bunch of TV rights, or to ensure some money from betting. It was designed to to help more women become professional cricketers. I just don’t think we have ever had much of that in our game.

I don’t know which team you should support, though it clearly shouldn’t be the Barmy Army one. I don’t know how good the quality will be; it should vary greatly. The first game was certainly a strange watch at times, but there was some quality cricket as well.

However, I know that many people who loved cricket got together to improve our game. And for whatever Fairbreak becomes, it at least started as that. And that is worth supporting.