Revenue sharing should come into BPL: Nafisa Kamal
Published : Friday, 23 August, 2019 at 2:43 PM Count : 108
Nafisa Kamal, owner of Comilla Victorians - the defending champions of the Bangladesh Premier League - opens up on a variety of issues plaguing the League and more.
What motivated you to run a franchise in BPL?
For me it's passion, there has to be a tremendous amount of passion to overcome all the obstacles every year that come in the way, year after year. And to stay back and to continue with this, it takes a lot of passion I am sure. And also a lot of pride in what you do. And I am extremely fortunate that I come from a family where this plays a big role, being part of a cricketing organisation and carrying this forward is a source of big pride for us.
Is running a franchise in BPLcommerciallyviable? You recently said that BPL is a loss project?
That's what I am trying to tell as there is no other financial incentive here and there hasn't been almost for five to six years now. Passion has to play a big role and financial incentives, sad to say, the way the whole structure is set up, I don't think franchises get any benefit in terms of money-making. Because, we don't share ground rights or ticket rights, we are not part of the media rights. The only source of money that we have is from the sponsors. I don't think it's easy for any team to acquire the same number of sponsors with two BPLs in the same year. It's very difficult to come up with the same number of sponsors, particularly if you don't have a good result the year before. The only way we can look at it is like the successful model of IPL, and come up with the revenue sharing with the cricket board.
Can you explain the revenue sharing plan?
Revenue sharing happens in two ways. Firstly, let's just look at the BPL that has been done over the years, the franchises have not been able to get the profit which is very unfortunate. We are running into the seventh year now. First we can have a share in the profits. We can share the money equally. Or give us the partial rights to media, grounds, ticketing and then we will sell. We will be sharing your work. Whatever the amount we will be making it will be our money. I want part of the ground rights, I want part of the tickets. If I have the rights of the tickets for certain matches, I sell the tickets and that money comes to me. And the more franchises are involved financially, the more value it adds to BPL. Because there was no value addition to the BPL, there was no sustainability. There are franchises coming and going every year.
In the male-dominated cricket fraternity of Bangladesh, isn't it difficult to find your voice as a female? You are the only female organiser and for you the journey must be quite difficult...
Of course I agree with that. It's very sad to say and I obviously try to downplay that all the time, especially coming from a country where we have leader like Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has been leading the way for us being a woman. It's sad for us because after so many years, I'm the only girl here. I'm the only female in auction room, or when we get together for the players' events. So I think it's a pity and they want to make me feel that I'm the only female there and those issues come into play like say when I'm running the team. But I have a good support system with my coach and management. So we try to make the most of it but it's still a sad reality here - that being the only female cricket organiser in cricket so far, it's quite difficult.
Don't you get frustrated at times after being made the scapegoat on quite a few occasions?
I come from a family that's already been in cricket and my father [AHM Mustafa Kamal] was the President of BCB for so many years. So I can say that this is the easiest place for me comparing to others. But I just can't imagine what any other girl coming from an average family or a typical family background would have to face. But I do have to face challenges every day, especially when the tournament is on and especially when I'm there at the auction room, when the match is on I'm in the dressing room. There is vibe out there that when I'm there, 'it's not the owner but more precisely she is a female owner, she is female organiser'. So when I have my first meeting with the team, and I do this every year, I tell them that I have been running a franchise for five, four or six years now. I know business more than any of you do. Specially the players we have, they are young players. So don't ever look at me as a female owner and organiser. I'm an organiser and owner who knows her work, who has done this for years now, who knows more than you do. The fact that I have to have this talk and establish my authority probably speaks the difference.
We have seen you to be a proactive franchise owner but at the same time we witnessed you went the complete opposite direction in the last edition of the tournament. Can you explain why.
That's why I started by saying that passion is the main ingredient. Because when there is no passion, I have seen that my teams suffered. Performance of my team is the reflection of my passion behind the team. Sometimes, I decided to let go - even last year or the year when we became the champions. I decided to let go only when the obstacles became so huge as an owner and female owner of Comilla Victorians, it just becomes too difficult to go on. Because sometimes I feel like this isn't worth my time and effort and the tears that I shed for this team. Lot of things happen and I think we were just being targeted in the BPL, and I can give specific examples. In the rain abandoned eliminator in 2017 BPL, we had to play a rematch and according to the rules at that time, the team at the top of the league goes through (in situations when a match cannot be played), they were the finalist. They just go into the final automatically because they are on the top of the other teams. All of a sudden, the whole thing came up where BPL governing council had arrived and they can change any rule of the tournament, it's a bye law. So why us! It was our deserving opportunity but there were some sudden changes.
And even now, we have signed an Icon, Mushfiqur Rahim during the World Cup and just three months before the tournament, they are saying that, 'all those signings are cancelled' because they are coming with new rules and regulations. I think it's very difficult to continue like this, that when I thought of giving up.
Also, players who are playing in my team for years, like Liton Das, they are all of a sudden uprooted as Icons for other teams and that's not fair on us because we have been grooming these players for a couple of years and all of a sudden they are uprooted. This year we are hearing that Saifuddin might be uprooted too and that is completely unfair and so that makes you feel like you are being targeted for being a female owner. This makes it really difficult to go on. They take my focus out of the match to the external issues.
How does your father help you?
I'm here only for my father obviously. The passion I was talking about was for my father. I take lots of advice from him. He plays a big role in those aspects where I feel very defeated. The challenges I faced during the BPL, I felt very defeated and weak, I went to him and asked what should I do now, he said, 'if you really feel like it, then don't stay here because it will get more and more difficult. You will just have to go and face it and fight it and go on'. This is my father's strength and encouragement. I called him and I said I was done with it but he said that and thankfully I'm here.
Last year BPL governing council had an issue with Steven Smith's signing and it turned out to be big issue for you prior to the competition?
If BPL governing body can have the rights to change any law at any point then they could easily accommodate us when we wanted to get Smith as a special signing. But I don't agree with that in the first place because the way Smith has come up, we had written to BCB asking for their permission and we got their official approval. The signing only took place post their official approval. When media started writing about it, suddenly it became an issue. But we had not done anything without their approval. We had a letter from them where they said, 'it's alright. You can go ahead'.
Do you feel that announcing Smith as your captain was a mistake considering it was hard for Tamim Iqbal to digest given that he had played a key role in forming your squad in the last edition?
Looking back...you do make mistakes. I'm not saying I'm perfect. I like to say, I work with passion. So obviously I will make more human mistakes than other people. My error margin will be higher. Looking back, I feel like we got Smith in and there were issues with Tamim being captain and Imrul being captain. Because even the year before, Tamim was injured first four matches and he could not play for us in 2017. At that point we had to call in [Mohammad] Nabi as captain. So that continued, at certain points were not sure if Tamim would be playing. Despite all the confusion I feel like I should have named Tamim the captain. Choosing Smith instead I feel like it was not a right choice for us. But it went right, thanks to the cooperation of Tamim and every other player.
You have signed Mushfiqur Rahim but there is a rumour that Dhaka Dynamites might go after him considering they had lost Shakib though in both cases it is still to be decided considering BPL began a new cycle?
Yes, we have heard. There were so many rules and regulation discussions in one year. Our stand was very specific, we wanted to continue with the last year's rules and regulations which was declared the most successful BPL model by themselves. And that means, we will retain four players and two foreign signings. If I retain four players, Mushfiqur is still my Icon player because Icons have the right to move in teams with clearance.
Do you feel BPL governing council could have taken a more professional approach?
Follow the time line. The draft is third week of October; BPL is first week of December. And today we are sitting at the end of August...to sign the agreement for the next. We haven't signed the rules and regulations. This is ridiculous. This should have been done in January.
Probably because of late realisation of BCB...
This is because a specific issue that came up [ Shakib leaving Dhaka] and because of that, they are making all the teams go through the whole process change. So my suggestion is that, don't change the whole structure of the tournament just have a specific solution for the specific issues.
But there is a new cycle in place...
There is no cycle. There is no signing agreement with them. The rules of the previous BPL will continue, so far until our next signing, the previous rule will continue. Now, whether we are on that next cycle or not, we are part of this cycle. That's why wrapping our team and everything. But they want us to stay back.
So the confusion is, we are just continuing with the previous rules because we haven't signed the new rules yet. If the new rules have significant changes, the changes have to effect the whole tournament to add value to the tournament and to add sustainability to the tournament. Not for specific signing issue for specific player or specific team. I don't agree with that. If you want to make changes, make changes to the whole tournament, most welcome when you share revenue with us. If you want to cancel the signing of my player than you have to share revenue with me. You have to make changes in every aspect to add value to the tournament not to resolve a specific player signing somewhere. I signed Mushfiqur during the World Cup while Tamim left us and joined Khulna before going to the World Cup. No issue has been raised since then.
Tell us something about the coming season
The coming season will depend on the field factors. If you come to an agreement with the board, you will sign the contract for the next cycle. If you don't, it will be in difficult position to sign the contract for the next cycle whether you continue or not. I feel like, now, the franchises should have the stronger position in the agreement. We are here for almost seven years now. We are big stake holders. BPL is nothing without us and we are nothing without BPL. It's a two-way system. So there should be equal accountability for both parts. We have given them some suggestions, our main point was to continue with the same successful model of the last year, they have given us some proposals. You don't have come to an agreement. If it happens we will sign on that and if it doesn't, we can't talk about making a change for next cycle.
Are you planning to propose home and away matches?
I will make a suggestion to the board. Because we don't have a stadium in Comilla yet, we have it in the pipeline, the plan has been passed and it will come in few years. And since we don't have it yet, and there are just two-three stadiums used in BPL in two-three different cities, we should just designate those for each match. We should be given home rights. On certain matches, my (Comilla) fans stood outside with tickets as they were not allowed to enter the stadium. Where some others had free entry without tickets. These issues really need to be taken care of.