New Delhi: The decision to move the Indian Premier League (IPL) out of India in its second season led to a war of words among political parties even as the Bombay high court on Monday cleared the air on the legal battle between the organizers of the popular cricket series and its exclusive broadcast partner.
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The court on Monday refused to grant any relief to Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd (MSMPL) on the injunction it filed on 15 March seeking to restrain the Board of Control for Cricket in India, or BCCI, from terminating its exclusive television broadcast rights for the Twenty20 tournament and signing a new deal with sports marketing group World Sports Group, or WSG.
The court’s decision opened the doors for BCCI and WSG, which holds the global media rights to IPL for 10 years, to sign a fresh deal with any broadcaster. A BCCI executive, however, said the rights were still likely to remain with MSMPL.
“Yes, the injunction has been lifted...but I believe the negotiations are again back with Sony (MSMPL was earlier Sony Entertainment Television),” said Niranjan Shah, secretary, BCCI.
While MSMPL declined to comment on the development, Venu Nair, chief executive, South Asia, WSG said: “Now it’s up to us to decide who gets to broadcast IPL in India...we are in talks with three broadcasters, including Sony.”
Nair said the new broadcaster would be announced by Tuesday evening. The other two broadcasters, according to people close to the development, include a consortium led by broadcast network NDTV and ESPN Star Sports.
According to Nair, the three broadcasters asked for two days time to review the logistics and costs involved in shifting the venue for holding IPL matches to a foreign location.
Meanwhile, the shifting of the venue took a political hue with the Union government and the opposition parties launching an aggressive war of words against each other on the failed efforts to hold the event within the country.
“The impression which has gone is that India is not a safe destination for sporting events. Today, it is sporting events, tomorrow it may be other events where crowds gather. It maybe some religious events like Kumbh Mela or Ajmer Sharif function,” said Arun Jaitley, general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP.
Hitting out at home minister P. Chidambaram, he added: “He must realize that it amounts to giving India a bad name, almost clubbing us with the image Pakistan has. He must concentrate on the job assigned to him.”
Chidambaram was prompt in reacting, asking the opposition not to play politics with cricket. “It appears that IPL is more than a game. It is a shrewd combination of sport and business. There is no reason to add politics to this combination,” Chidambaram told a press meet in New Delhi.
The general election is due to start on 16 April and end on 13 May. IPL was scheduled to start on 10 April and end on 24 May. The government had asked the tournament to be rescheduled, citing security concerns and saying it will not be able to provide adequate security at the match venues a time when additional forces were needed for polls.
The home minister also criticised Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who called the decision to shift the matches abroad a national shame. “What is a national shame? Most people in India think that the Gujarat communal riots in 2002 were a national shame,” Chidambaram said. He also said that the home ministry had asked the host states for their views on the revised schedule but only Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Chandigarh had responded.
“I have repeatedly said that cricket—or any other game— when played in India is completely safe and all players will be provided full security. The question is when should the IPL matches be played,” said Chidambaram.
Meanwhile, IPL chairman Lalit Modi said the tournament could not be postponed and, hence, was required to shift abroad because of the unavailability of dates for the rest of the year for holding the event. The international cricket calendar is booked for the entire year and there are no dates available and, hence, the event can’t be postponed for a better time later this year, he said.
According to people familiar with the development, the billion-dollar tournament is most likely to be played in England, while South Africa is also a possibility.
Separately, the move to shift IPL outside the country has thrown other stakeholders such as the eight franchisees, advertisers and sponsors into a tizzy. “The central IPL sponsors are brands (include DLF, Vodafone, Hero Honda among others) that want to target the Indian audience and while they will get the required visibility through TV, they do run the risk of losing out on in-stadia presence, like on the seats or on the tickets, etc.,” said a media buyer involved with IPL.
He said that while sponsors have not raised any objections yet, but once everything is finalized, some advertisers might seek compensation.
PTI contributed to this story.