Karachi likely to host remainder of PSL due to financial dispute

The remainder of the PSL might be moved in its entirety to Karachi after a financial dispute between the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the interim Punjab government. The decision will be made following a meeting, chaired in the afternoon with all franchise owners.

The dispute concerns how to split the security costs of hosting the tournament, with the interim Punjab government understood to be demanding the PCB to pay PKR 450m in security costs to host the tournament in Lahore and Rawalpindi. That amount also includes the costs the government incurred for hosting matches in Multan.

The PCB, otherwise, had an agreement to pay only PKR 50m with the previous government which was dissolved in the last week of January and the board has paid that amount as agreed.

According to a PCB official, the Sindh government does not require the PCB to pay a share of the security costs, and only requires remuneration for catering to the security personnel. That cost is understood to be in the region of PKR 30m.

The PCB is understood to be willing to pay towards catering in Punjab, too, but is reluctant to foot the bill for security, which they consider to be the responsibility of the local government. A PCB official pointed out that the government had picked up the security tab for hosting cricket in the province in the past, too, and that the financial burden of the security costs would be too onerous. If the PCB were required to pay that money, there is understood to be an expectation that the franchise owners, too, would foot part of that bill. Moving the whole tournament to Karachi would, in that event, save both stakeholders money.

But the PCB and the franchise owners are not necessarily on the same page. A franchise owner ESPNcricinfo spoke to was against any change of schedule, saying it was inappropriate of the PCB to draw the franchise owners into a disagreement between itself and the Punjab government. They said the PCB had informed the owners of the possible move to Karachi at the last minute in an email, and had not yet formally spoken to them. They appealed to both parties to settle the matter in a way that did not disrupt the schedule of the PSL, believing confining the remainder of the tournament to one city would damage the PSL.

Officials in the Punjab government ESPNcricinfo spoke with paint a picture of a dispute that had been in the offing for some time. A senior member of Punjab’s civil service said the government had implored the PCB to share some of the considerable costs of organising security for its premier tournament, pointing out there were three separate venues in Punjab which required security arrangements – Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan. Sindh, meanwhile, has just one – the National Stadium Karachi. Since cricket returned to Pakistan, Punjab has hosted more PSL and international cricket, with costs adding up over time.

It is not clear whether the specifics of the cost split had been ironed out ahead of the PSL, but the wider political context may also have played a part. The Punjab government has seen significant upheaval in the past few months, with Imran Khan’s party, the PTI, resigning its government in Punjab. The PCB had initially sorted out logistical considerations with the PTI’s provincial government in Punjab, with the government reportedly agreeing to pay all security costs. However, with a different setup at the helm since January, it appears certain differences have come to a head.

The PCB has called an emergency PSL governing council meeting for Friday afternoon to discuss the various options of who and how to pay the additional cost to the interim Punjab government while also exploring the possibility of moving the remaining 20 matches from Punjab to Sindh and to discuss who will bear the additional cost of relocation.

The first 12 matches of the PSL have taken place in Karachi and Multan. The first match in Lahore is scheduled to be held on February 26, with the first game in Rawalpindi to take place on March 1. The playoffs and final – on March 19 – were originally all scheduled for Lahore.

Additional reporting from Umar Farooq

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000

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