New Delhi: The third edition of the Indian Premier League’s, or IPL’s, Twenty20 tournament starts on 12 March. In the run-up to the event, P.B. Vanchi, director, GMR Sports Pvt. Ltd, the company that owns the Delhi Daredevils team and which is part of the GMR Group, an industrial conglomerate with interests in infrastructure, spoke to Mint on his company’s plans and IPL 3. Edited excerpts:
You have the IPL coming back to India this year, and next year, two more teams will be in the fray— this is an important season for the league, isn’t it?
Playing forward: P.B. Vanchi says the expansion of the league next year makes the present season all the more critical for his team. Hemant Mishra /Mint
This season is critical for both reasons. The first season in 2008 was a war effort for both IPL and the franchises. Though it was a spectacular show, we had plans to take it to the next level in the second season. Unfortunately, we had to put the plans on hold due to the shift to South Africa. The plans will be implemented this year and we are confident that we will be able to firmly establish IPL as the greatest cricket spectacle in the world.
The fact that the structure of the tournament will be expanded from next year makes it all the more critical for us to focus on the success of the present season. This will ensure a solid platform to leverage on the proposed changes next year.
What does the induction of the new teams mean for you?
Honestly, we are looking forward to the inclusion of the two new teams. There is the obvious benefit of higher broadcasting revenues since the broadcaster’s deal with IPL is on a per match basis. In addition, we are looking forward to the higher number of matches and increased competition. It is clearly more gratifying to play and win among 10 teams rather than eight.
Our inherent Delhi advantage will also ensure that we continue to be one of the strongest propositions for sponsors and licensees, despite the two new teams coming in. At its core, the value of a sports team is driven by the potential size of its fan base and the disposable income of its fans. Delhi remains the leader in both parameters and so we believe that our value will be unaffected by the inclusion of new teams.
How do you plan to increase the value of your team?
We are currently focused on maximizing the value of our team by focusing on on-field performance, the brand and fan base, and cost control.
Hospitality and merchandising are big opportunities for sports teams worldwide. Any plans in the seareas?
Absolutely. In fact, our first Daredevils sports bar will be launched in the new Delhi international airport, which is also incidentally owned by GMR (Group). We plan to launch a number of such theme bars across NCR (National Capital Region) in the coming months. We are also closing a number of exciting licensing and merchandising deals.
The first season created a whole new audience for the games, such as housewives. Will these people stay with the game?
Absolutely. IPL is not just cricket; it is a holistic entertainment proposition. Not only will it attract and retain non-traditional viewers, those who come to the stadium will be left craving for more.
Has India’s ascent to the top spot in Test cricket rankings done anything for you?
Anything that increases interest in cricket is good for IPL. We are confident that India’s stellar performances in all forms of cricket in the last few months will further stoke the viewers’ interest in IPL.
We would like to highlight here that some of India’s key players who have driven India’s performance in the last few months are actually Daredevil players—like (Virender) Sehwag, (Gautam) Gambhir and (Dinesh) Karthik.
Finally, is there any player, from any generation, whom you would have loved to have?
Viv Richards would have come in handy.
The first in a series of interview of IPL team owners and executives. Tomorrow: Deccan Chargers.