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Dr. Arindam Chaudhuri
Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M
Is it that IPL organisers are using elections as an opportunity to run away from India at a time when it is not able to guarantee returns to the owners?

Unlike last year, this year’s IPL is in the news for altogether a different set of reasons. Now that it has already been declared (assuming this decision to be the final one, without further change) that this season’s IPL would take place in South Africa, it is time for India to take stock of what she has lost and what not, on account of this decision. But before that, it is even more pertinent to question why IPL organisers accepted this in the first place? Is it that they are deliberately trying to run away from hosting the event in India, using the general elections as an excuse? And considering the fact that general elections should be given topmost priority, was it so very challenging to postpone the event by some time, and hold it later on in all the states? Why is there so much hurry to force upon a decision, and that too, to host one of the most popular sporting properties of India, outside India? Is it that the organisers knew that as a pure business model from the perspective of the investors, the IPL format hasn’t worked in India? And is it also because of the economic slowdown, wherein people in general are reluctant to spend on entertainment, (for example, even good films – but without star cast – are doing miserably at the box office) there are hardly any signs of it becoming a profitable venture even this time around?

For all those who are hypnotised by the glamour quotient of the game – and completely sold out by the idea of IPL – here goes some awakening facts. Last year, during the IPL season, barring a few final matches and matches that were held in Kolkata, most of the other stadia were nearly half-empty. But the TV channels, who were incidentally also investors in the property, astutely kept focusing only on those parts of the stadium which had some crowd. Not that the same would have happened this time too. The fact is that in the last season, none of the teams except for Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals were able to make returns on their investments. To reiterate the fact, I would like to clarify that only Rajasthan Royals made money because of their consistent performance, while Kolkata Knight Riders made it simply on account of brand value, creativity and innovation, viz. merchandise sales and sponsorships.

While Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals netted profits to the tune of Rs.13 crore and Rs.6 crore respectively, the rest of the teams, namely Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers, Deccan Chargers, Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab incurred losses of Rs.16 crore, Rs.43 crore, Rs.18 crore, Rs.0.2 crore, Rs.6.6 crore and Rs.2.4 crore respectively. Collectively, the losses were to the tune of a jaw-dropping Rs.67.2 crore directly, and around Rs.90 crore overall (including indirect investments)!!!

Given the precedence and the current economic scenario, it definitely seems that the IPL authorities were actually looking for an exit route. On top of all this, even their last hope of the Santa-Claus list, the investors, have been backing out big time this season. With all doors showing them a ‘no-entry’ signboard, IPL organisers thought that it was wise to use the past season’s hype and make another country pay up to be the host for this season. And as far as the Indian audience is concerned, the organisers would time the matches in such a manner that they don’t lose out on TRPs. In doing so, they have subtly accepted the fact that IPL is going to be more of a TV spectacle than a live stadium spectacle in India! Nevertheless, even if it is in South Africa, the sport scene is quite different there as compared to India. Countries like South Africa or UK, unlike India, have a culture of sports ingrained in them. So such competitive sporting tournaments always attract the crowds. But wouldn’t it be funny that people there would be expected to come and cheer for a Kolkata Knight Riders or a Rajasthan Royals (no wonder even the names of the teams will be no less than a tongue twister for them)? It is just like hosting an NBC basketball tournament here and expecting that like the way Americans love it, Indians too would throng to the stadia!

The only upside that I see in this entire thing is that after terming India as the world’s Slumdog Millionaire, the West will now cheer for the Indian Premier League. Though the truth is that on any given day, I would have loved to see it happen in India. And I find it quite embarrassing too that it’s not happening in India, because India sure hasn’t yet become Pakistan that we couldn’t manage security for some players – so what if the elections were happening simultaneously. It sure doesn’t speak highly of India’s confidence in its own security systems. Or is it – as I asked – that IPL organisers are using the elections as an opportunity to run away from India at a time when they are not able to guarantee returns to the owners?

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