BCCI delivers a bouncer

BCCI delivers a bouncer

Newspapers reported a piece of cricket research last week: that when India’s cricket team loses One Day Internationals,?despondent stock investors pull out of the market.

This weekend’s piece of cricket news that India’s governing cricket body, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), has arbitrarily expelled two Indian Premier League (IPL) teams could have two possible repercussions—investors withdrawing by way of sponsorship and spectator scepticism.

Already various sponsors affiliated to the two teams, the Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals, will have to rethink their participation in the lucrative league, given the fact that the two teams’ celebrity connections made them that much more visible among others, bar the Kolkata Knight Riders.

With the number of teams reduced, so would be the number of matches, which were anyway down from 94—as initially proposed—to 74 for the 10-team league, which is now again down to eight. In which case Sony’s broadcast sponsorship deal will have to?be re-evaluated.

If Kochi does not measure up to the standards set by BCCI, that would cut IPL down to seven teams. This also means that the remaining seven or eight teams (BCCI has indicated it would call for the bidding of a brand new franchise to make up for the missing eighth spot) will lose out on gate receipts and ground sponsorship deals, since there would be fewer matches. Already, owners such as Vijay Mallya of the Royal Challengers Bangalore have expressed their displeasure at the expulsion; any voluntary pullouts by franchise owners would only bring the league down.

Smart businessmen (and often politicians) at the helm have made BCCI the richest cricketing body—and IPL ranks among the most expensive sporting properties in the world. Its biggest advantage has been that as a private body, it’s been independent from the government or any governmental agency, free from bureaucracy that has held back other sports in the country. For instance, IPL’s brand value is estimated at 17,760 crore, while the Hockey World Cup that was held in Delhi in February needed a bailout from Hero Honda before the event could even be held.

Indian cricket has survived more damaging scandals in the past. Fans have remained steadfast, though the supporters of Punjab and Rajasthan who invested in tickets and over-priced team shirts to spend late nights at crowded stadiums have been brutally cut off from cricket’s most entertaining spectacle.

BCCI has, in what would appear as an act of vengeance, alienated its two biggest assets—sponsors and fans—in an attempt to clean up one man’s wrong.

Expulsion of teams from IPL: right step or vendetta politics? Tell us at views@livemint.com