London, Apr 26: England is to launch a tournament to rival the Indian Premier League (IPL) jointly with an American billionaire who said Twenty20 cricket could replace football as the world's top sport, it was announced on Friday.
David Collier, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), said the tournament, to be bankrolled by Antigua-based Texan billionaire Allen Stanford, will kick off in 2010 because of commitments in 2009.
"We've had some very positive and constructive discussions with Sir Allen during the last week. I think Sir Allen has certainly mentioned 2010 and I think that's the more likely (date)," Collier said on Friday.
However, the representative for England's cricketers - shut out of the IPL by their bosses - warned that an English Premier League would need the agreement of India, "because that is where the money is".
Collier said discussions with Stanford, who runs a Twenty20 championship in the Caribbean, were "well advanced" and also included plans for a one-off 10 million pound winner-take-all tournament between England and the West Indies.
"The discussions we've had regarding one-off internationals are particularly important. They are hugely beneficial to the game because they don't add an awful lot to workload and yet they do give the players opportunities to earn large sums of money," Collier said.
But Sean Morris, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, indicated an English league would have a greater chance of success if it involved India.
"We need to have a product that is exportable back to India, because that is where the money is. To do that, you need India's agreement. You are going to need some of their top players. There is no reason why their franchisees wouldn't mind playing a few more games in England. That seems an entirely plausible option," Morris said.
Meanwhile, Standford said Thursday that Twenty20 could upstage football as the world's favourite sport and be worth 500 million.
"Twenty20 has the potential to be the most popular team sport in the world in maybe less than 10 years. But it's going to take a highly organised efficient management team to run it," he said.