Mike Fordham: Rajasthan Royals chief on being IPL’s English franchise

They have four English players on their books; Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Liam Livingstone and the injured MVP from last season, Jofra Archer.

Off the field, their owner, Manoj Badale, is based in London. The Director of Cricket, Kumar Sangakkara, is President of MCC, proprietors of Lord’s. Andrew Strauss acts as a consultant. Ron Kalifa, an independent non-executive director at the ECB, has a stake in the franchise. Their Chief Operating Officer is an Englishman in his twenties, Jake Lush McCrum. They have set up an Academy at Reed’s School in Surrey and, until recently had a deal with a marketing agency in London to spread the word in the UK.

So when they needed a new Chief Executive last year, Mike Fordham seemed a very natural fit.

Fordham is a Londoner, which helps. But he is also as well-versed in the intricacies and inner workings of the IPL and the global franchise scene as anyone in the English game – including the players. When he talks T20 leagues, others listen.

A quick resume rundown: back in 2007, not long out of Cambridge, Fordham was – in his words – “the junior guy” on IMG’s team working with Lalit Modi on the first IPL, which arrived the following year. He worked “across all elements” – team names, auction, franchise sale, TV deals, title sponsorship.

He did that for the first few editions before working on the launch of the Caribbean Premier League with IMG, then moving to the ECB. There, he was involved in the Hundred before moving on two years ago. All the while, he was keeping an eye on the IPL, and had wound up visiting most seasons.

The IPL’s increasing acceptance in England – by fans, media and administrators alike – is clearly a source of satisfaction for someone who has been there since day one. He admits it leaves him with “a little” wry smile.

“I have stayed close,” he tells Standard Sport. “It’s been great to watch it grow and become a more important part of the global cricket ecosystem. Clearly, it’s got bigger and is a fantastic sports event with a brilliant atmosphere when crowds are in.

“It’s also a great sporting product. We [Rajasthan] went into the last game last season with a chance of making playoffs and finished eighth. That’s what we set out to achieve years ago – a compelling, close competition. 

“It was a smash hit from season one, but now it’s indisputably the No1 annual cricket tournament in the world, indisputably the No1 entertainment product in India.

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