Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 12th 2015 Contents The T&T Red Steel cricket franchise
recently welcomed Bollywood megastar Shah
Rukh Khan as its primary investor, in no
small part due to the efforts of Jamie Stewart,
an Australian based in Delhi, India, over the
past 15 years.
Stewart is currently in the West Indies, in
his role as CPL (Caribbean Premier League)
commercial director, further developing syn-
ergies related to the Hero CPL.
An avid one-day cricketer back in his native
state of Western Australia in the 1990 s (1992-
2000), he is the founder of the Delhi-based
company Commune Sports & Entertainment,
formed in 2008, which has to its credit the
original idea for the creation of cricket s CPL,
now in its third year.
Stewart continues to work closely with
stakeholders in the region to further develop
the regional franchise cricket professional
league, the CPL, in this part of the world.
The semi-final and final of the 2015 edition
of the competition will be held at the Queen s
Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, on July 28, 29 and
30, and sold-out crowds are expected at what
is hailed as the biggest party in sports.
CNC3 is carrying all the games live.
The Sunday Guardian caught up with the
busy Aussie recently.
Q: Tell us a bit more about yourself.
For example, where did you grow
up, how did you come to be based
in India and become so intimately involved
with Caribbean franchise cricket?
A: I grew up in Perth, Western Aus-
tralia, which is in fact the most iso-
lated city in the world. It s a very
prosperous and beautiful place, but that iso-
lation is also a call to a lot of people to go out
and experience the wider world.
I had (and still do have) an interest in med-
itation and spiritual matters, so I used to spend
some of the cricket off season in India on the
I had moved to Sydney in 1999 as part of
a promotion in my media and publishing career
(in the days when cricketers used to have to
hold day jobs) and while I still had a profes-
sional contract (with NSW), my cricket wasn t
really going anywhere. Someone who knew
me as a cricketer had heard of my interest in
India and out of the blue asked me to open
an office of a UK sports agency in India.
The idea of a "life less ordinary" has always
appealed, so I thought it was worth going for
a year to have that life experience. That was
In 2011, India was touring the West Indies
and I had an Indian client who was looking
for a major cricket sponsorship opportunity.
In short, we ended up being able to procure
them the rights for that series and I spent
three weeks in the Caribbean on that tour.
It s such an amazing part of the world, and
I had such a good time I started talking to the
then CEO of WICB Ernest Hilaire as to how
we might potentially work together. He started
talking about the Regional T20 Tournament
that existed at the time, thinking perhaps that
we could find a sponsor for the league. How-
ever, I started to think that there might be a
bigger opportunity of marrying Indian capital
with a franchise-based league modelled on
IPL. I d worked with Mumbai Indians since
the start-up phase and also done some con-
sulting re Big Bash, so had a fair idea of the
basic business model that could be a building
block. We came up with a hybrid model that
allowed for private investors, the board agreed
to this if it could be funded, and the rest I
guess is now history.
Who were some of the major movers and
shakers involved in the formation of the
My agency put together the original plans
with the current chief operating officer Pete
Russell, who was deeply involved. There was
the involvement of a seed investor in Ajmal
Khan to jump-start the venture but really, it s
very fair to say that the main force behind
making CPL a reality has been Digicel chairman
Denis O Brien. He ultimately had the belief
that CPL was a great thing for the Caribbean
and "wrote the cheque" that gave CPL the
green light to move ahead in the first season.
That is when he brought our CEO, Damien
O Donohoe, into the mix and when ideas start-
ed to become reality.
From the board s side, then CEO Ernest
Hilaire was the main driving force in the early
phase of signing the staging agreement upon
which everything else rests. He is a very intel-
ligent and principled guy and believed in the
vision for what CPL could do for West Indies
cricket, even if the board had to take a little
bit more of a back seat in order to bring the
required investors and money into the venture.
He had a lot of consulting experience with
McKinsey and I think, understood better than
any of us that private capital was required to
create something that was going to be a "game
What is your role and what goes on behind
the scenes in that role?
I essentially work on raising and managing
certain revenue streams for CPL, principally
via sponsorship and using India contacts where
possible to help drive the league forward (eg,
with the Hero Title Sponsorship), as well as
being a general management resource.
We are a very small team which is what
makes, I think, what this small team has
achieved the last three years even more special.
We ve been fortunate in that many of the
major corporations in the region (other than
of course Digicel) have shared the vision for
CPL, not least Limacol, Guardian Group, El
Dorado, Courts and SM Jaleel, who have all
been with us since before a ball was bowled.
This is the third year in what has become
a global attraction for the sport of cricket,
that of franchise cricket. Why has franchise
cricket become so popular?
It s been said a million times but it s really
cricket for the modern age---movie-length
entertainment. As well as a sport it s a spec-
tacle : you can come to watch the game or
just "for the lime" as you say here, or a com-
bination of both. Our lifestyles don t really
allow for carving out much more than three
hours for a sports event on most days, and
with the rise of the digital age people s attention
spans have drastically shortened with the way
they consume entertainment content changing
dramatically. Sport is ultimately a form of
entertainment and has to compete with all
other forms of entertainment that are available
Continues on Page B2
WITH NASSER KHAN
Jamie Stewart poses with T&T Red Steel
captain Dwayne Bravo, left.
pays off Page B9
puppy Page B35
...Aussie Jamie Stewart created CPL
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