Twenty20 cricket's brand value rose to new heights on Thursday after pan-Asian ESPN-STAR network agreed to pay 900 million dollars for the proposed T20 Champions League.
The network was awarded the global commercial rights of the inter-club tournament for the next 10 years with the inaugural event set to be played from December 3-10 at venues yet to be decided.
The deal makes the tournament the highest valued cricket event on a per-game basis, according to a statement from the organisers that comprise the Australian, Indian and South African cricket boards.
ESPN-STAR, owned jointly by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and Walt Disney, were awarded the rights after bids were opened in Dubai late Wednesday on the sidelines of the International Cricket Council's annual awards night.
"We have what we believe to be the best commercial deal for the inaugural Champions League Twenty20 season and for cricket fans across the world," said Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi.
ESPN-STAR, which also holds the rights for all ICC events including the World Cup, Champions Trophy and the T20 Worlds, said they were delighted to add the Champions League to their line-up.
"This is a testament to our commitment to the game of cricket and fans as we cement our relationship with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa," said ESPN-STAR managing director Manu Sawhney.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said the Champions League will enhance the game's popularity at the grassroots level.
"The Champions League Twenty20 will build on the success of domestic Twenty20 leagues in Australia and elsewhere in a manner which accelerates the development of cricket globally," said Sutherland.
"The benefits of this global event will greatly enhance cricket at the grassroots level, particularly for state-level players who get the chance to pit their skills against players from around the world."
The inaugural Champions League in December will feature eight domestic teams, with two each from Australia, India and South Africa and one each from England and Pakistan.
The organisers have set September 25-October 10, 2009 as the dates for the League's second edition which will be expanded to 12 teams.
The recent boom in Twenty20 cricket, sparked by the lucrative Indian Premier League this year, has led to growing concerns about the future of traditional Test and one-day cricket.