New Delhi: The Indian Premier League (IPL) will be moved out of India this year—the second time the popular Twenty20 cricket tournament will be played on foreign soil because of a clash of dates with the general election and consequent security concerns.
The government said on Friday that it would not be able to provide adequate security forces for the seventh edition of IPL because of the election due to take place in April-May, forcing the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to search for an alternative staging ground.
“Due to general elections, it will be difficult to provide adequate security to IPL matches,” home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said.
The cash-rich tournament was last played abroad in 2009, another election year, and for the same reason—the government’s inability to divert security forces from election duty. This year, the tournament is set to run from 9 April to 3 June.
IPL chairman Ranjib Biswal said on Friday that the organizers are hopeful of staging the last leg of the tournament, including the final, in India.
“The home ministry communicated to us yesterday (Thursday) that the IPL cannot be hosted in the country due to security concerns in the election year,” he said.
Cricket authorities have not yet decided which country the popular tournament will be moved to. In 2009, the tournament was played in South Africa.
“The decision on the venue will happen at the BCCI working committee meeting,” Biswal said. The meeting is to take place on 28 February.
While the change in venue is expected to bring down gate receipts from matches that would have been played in India, it may not have much of an impact of television viewership.
“We’ll miss the Indian crowds, the packed stadiums and the noise. Matches like Delhi Daredevils versus Mumbai Indians will not have the same impact because they won’t be played in either of these cities,” said an executive with an associate sponsor of the tournament on condition of anonymity.
Raghu Iyer, chief executive of the Rajasthan Royals franchise, agreed. “If the venue is being moved outside the country, there will definitely be a hit to the ticket sales,” he said. “It actually needs to be seen where the matches are being played, and depending on the distribution of matches played outside India vis-à-vis in India, one can ascertain the impact on revenues and profit and loss.”
Back-of-the-envelope calculations by a marketing expert, who didn’t want to be named, suggest that seven home matches for the Mumbai Indians would generate an estimated Rs.19-20 crore in ticket sales.
Sixty matches will be played in IPL this season.
To be sure, moving IPL out of India would have an impact on the entire ecosystem of the tournament that comprises television broadcasters, team franchises, viewers and sponsors.
The inaugural season of IPL in 2008 garnered 5.59 television rating points (TRPs). When the second edition moved to South Africa, TRPs dropped to 4.84. They recovered a bit in 2010 when the tournament returned to India.
Still, Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd (MSM), the television broadcaster that owns the telecast rights to IPL until 2017, is optimistic. “Even if the initial games shift out, the matches will still be telecast at 8pm India time and that should not impact television viewing,” said Rohit Gupta, president (network sales) at MSM. He added that the firm had not heard from BCCI about the change in the venue. MSM will broadcast the matches on its channels MAX and SONY SIX.
TRPs, which measure the percentage of TV audiences watching a show at a given time, for most programmes on Indian television are declining as viewership fragmentation becomes a reality in a maturing market.
In the case of IPL, the broadcaster, franchises and sponsors are eyeing a viewership that jumped from 78 million in 2008 to 140 million in 2013. The figures have been compiled by American Appraisal India Pvt. Ltd, a brand valuation, tax and finance advisory services firm.
Recently, American Appraisal valued IPL at as much as $3.2 billion ahead of its seventh edition and ranked Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians as the most valued teams at $72 million each.
American Appraisal managing director Varun Gupta does not think that shifting the tournament would have an impact on television viewership.
“If you remember the last time it was held in South Africa, they had set the match timings in such a way that they were still on prime time in India. So I don’t think the viewership will be impacted significantly, if at all. And hence even the advertising rates won’t suffer,” Gupta said.
A spokesperson for PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd, IPL’s title sponsor, said, “We hope BCCI will be able to find a solution which is in the best interest of all stakeholders.”
Vodafone India Services Pvt. Ltd, an associate sponsor, declined to comment, saying it preferred to speak only after hearing from BCCI.
For now, there is no clarity on the venue of the matches, though there is speculation that BCCI may turn to South Africa once again.
Speaking on the second day of the IPL players’ auction on 13 February in Bangalore, tournament officials said the seventh edition will run from 9 April to 3 June and that it may be moved to South Africa.
“As far as possible, we want to do the IPL in India. If not, then South Africa is the preferred venue at the moment. The second option is also there and the third option is also there,” BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel had said.
The eight IPL franchises have spent hundreds of crores of rupees between them acquiring players this year, the top money going to Indian players.
In addition, the franchises paid Rs.12.5 crore each—the next highest amount—for India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings), Dinesh Karthik (Delhi Daredevils), Shikhar Dhawan (Sunrisers Hyderabad), Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore), Rohit Sharma (Mumbai Indians), Gautam Gambhir (Kolkata Knight Riders), David Miller (Kings XI Punjab) and Shane Watson (Rajasthan Royals).
Mihir Dalal in Bangalore and PTI contributed to this story.