Afghanistan cricket is set for a multi-million dollar windfall after qualifying for the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2015.
The side from the sport’s second tier will receive a US$ one million preparation fee from the global governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), ahead of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
It comes on top of the US$422,000 awarded to the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) by the ICC Board in April of this year as part of its Targeted Assistance and Performance Programme (TAPP), aimed at raising playing standards.
In 2014, the top ICC Associate and Affiliate Members – including Afghanistan – will also receive approximately US$750,000 in base support through the ICC Development Funding Policy.
And according to the ACB Chief Executive Officer Dr Mohammed Noor, there is the potential for further funding that could amount to as much as US$850,000 from the country’s government and sponsorship agreements from domestic and international businesses eager to ride the wave of Afghanistan success.
“All the money we will receive will allow us to develop the game even more, and it will also allow us to be as ready as we can be for the ICC Cricket World Cup,” said Dr Noor.
“We have already begun working on our plans and we are looking at a three-month camp for the players ahead of the tournament.”
And those sponsorship dollars are likely to multiply thanks to the success of broadcast coverage of Afghanistan’s latest matches.
The two matches against Kenya that sealed the side’s place at the global 50-over event in Australia and New Zealand were shown back home on national television as well as on the Internet thanks to the ICC.
That followed on from matches against Namibia streamed live in August, coverage that has given significant exposure to the national side.
It has allowed millions of Afghanistan cricket fans starved of action due to continuing fears over security the chance to enjoy the side’s triumphs, just five years after it was competing against cricketing minnows Japan and Jersey.
“It has been great for people back home to see the matches because it means they can now see the boys in action,” said Dr Noor. “The cricket team is now recognisable on the streets of Afghanistan.
“I understand His Excellency President Karzai was also watching Friday’s match and the coverage helps the profile of the game throughout our country and throughout our region,” he added.
The ACB’s coffers may be swelled still further in the coming months if the team can qualify for 2014’s ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh, with the qualifiers for that event in the United Arab Emirates in November.
If Afghanistan can secure a place at that tournament – and it has qualified for the past two, in the West Indies in 2010 and Sri Lanka in 2012 – the ACB will receive an additional US$250,000.
“Cricket is already the most popular sport in Afghanistan and our idea, with the help of this extra money, is to further improve and develop so we can get even more participation in the country,” said Dr Noor.
The US$ one million preparation grant will go to all four Associate and Affiliate sides as well as the 10 Full Members who will participate in the ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Ireland is already set to receive the money having been the first side to qualify for the tournament, while another two sides are set to qualify from a ten-team tournament in New Zealand in January.
ICC Chief Executive, David Richardson, said: “The ICC is delighted to be playing a part in that growth through not only the preparation grant which also goes to the other qualifiers for the ICC Cricket World Cup, but also through the TAPP funding and the coverage we have been able to help provide through the broadcasting of matches during the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Championship.”