Daniel Weston On Founding The European Cricket League, Working With ICC And Popularising Cricket In Europe
February 22, 2021
Daniel Weston, former German cricketer, founded the European Cricket League in 2018 – also dubbed “the Champions League of European Cricket” – with the aim to popularise the sport further in Europe. iSPORTCONNECT spoke with him to find out about the story behind the league, their sponsorship and future plans.
What was the idea and story behind the European Cricket League, what was the idea behind starting it?
Well I was originally born in Australia where I grew up playing cricket from an incredibly young age. I played underage cricket ther and then went on to play for Western Australia premier league cricket. First-class cricket in Australia was pretty hard and had very high standards of course and I was also committed to my business and technology. I started a tech business when I was 18 and at that time I fascinated by the European history and culture.
By the time I was 23 I got an offer to sell my first business. So after that, I thought it was a great time to travel because l was putting a lot of pressure on me as a cricketer and not enjoying it much so I decided to take a little bit of time away from the game. I went and travelled to Europe where my first destination was Munich and I ended up meeting a German-Australian businessman with whom I thought of a business together.
“I thought, this is really strange. 10,000 people wanted to see a Facebook Live video of the German national cricket team!”
In Munich I discovered a cricket club and got involved at a very social level which was different from the high performance cricket I’d played before. I headed back to Australia for a short time but after marrying my girlfriend I settled in Munich. When I revisited the club, it was mainly Indian students who were very much committed to playing, very passionate, a lot of energy to their game, rather than just having fun. They really wanted to win and compete, so I thought wow, this is a changing landscape of cricket in Munich at least. And because I had then spent seven years in Germany I was qualified to play in ICC competitions for Germany.
And when I was playing for Germany, I discovered really quickly that again, it was not just a lot of very committed Indian cricketers, but also a lot of committed Afghan cricketers who had become refugees in Germany. So the more I got involved in cricket in Germany, the more I discovered the potential for growth.
We were playing in an ICC tournament and the discussion around the table was that we just won five games in a row. Everyone was wondering how we were so good after beating teams like Sweden and France, and noting that we should get sponsors and how big German companies like Audi, Siemens should sponsor German cricket. The next day, we played Sweden again, as we were walking off the pitch, there was a brother of one of the players doing a Facebook Live from his mobile phone. And the Facebook Live of us winning and walking off the field got 10,000 views. And I thought, this is really strange. 10,000 people wanted to see a Facebook Live video of the German national cricket team!
I then met the guys who were behind the UEFA Champions League and pitched the idea of starting the Champions League of European cricket. Because as soon as we were promoting the sport in these European countries, I knew that would grow because that’s how European sport is. It’s about clubs that go into leagues that get promoted or relegated, similarly to football.
So I pitched that to Frank [Leenders], Roger [Feiner], and Thomas [Klooz]. And they said, “Look, it sounds fascinating. The number of views that you got, 52 million views, for Germany Korea was incredible. Let’s start the European Cricket League as the Champions League of European cricket. But let’s also start European cricket network at the same time, because it’s a digital platform for the promotion of the sport.” And that meeting was a turning point in my life and the beginning of ECL.
So how are you getting backing for the competition through sponsors?
We are in partnership with Dream11 and Fancode who are both quite terrific and very supportive of us. They’re willing to take risks on passionate people who are looking to grow the game, but it has been very difficult at the same time.
We’re also in the stage of planning professional events but we haven’t got a past five-year or ten-year record so we’re a little bit unknown. Covid-19 has made things more difficult but that said, three years down the line; it will be much easier for us to discuss sponsorships with brands like KFC or a Coca-Cola.
How are more federations getting involved?
I have always supported the German federation in a big way and also all the national teams. For the first edition of the ECL, we were brainstorming as to what countries do we start with and I did a social media analysis to figure out what the best eight countries were, and that included Denmark, France, Italy etc.
“We have a good relationship with them [The ICC] and we make sure we’re playing by the rules and they are happy with it.”
I reached out to these federations with the ECL idea and they were all quite interested. The first event was awesome which led these organisations to have more trust in us and we’ve continued to work together. From eight federations to now 16, we have great federations coming in like Austria, Czech Republic, Sweden and are looking forward to expanding further.
What are the thoughts of major organisations such as the ICC, ECB about ECL?
The ICC is a professional organisation and we have a good relationship with them and we make sure we’re playing by the rules and they are happy with it. We’re doing things the right way as there have been incidents previously where people with big ambitions have tried to do things without the ICC but it never ends well.
With the ICC, we make sure everything is transparent and within the guidelines of what they want.
What are your plans for 2021 season?
At the moment we’re in Barcelona doing the Spanish European Cricket Series event and then we will move to Italy for five weeks, before heading to the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany, all while adhering to the COVID-19 protocols of course. Then comes a 16-team cricket league in Barcelona until June and that’s the first half of the year totalling around 500 matches. After ECL, we have European Cricket Series events around the Europe which will all be livestreamed.