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GMR Sports, the co-owner of Indian Premier League (IPL) team Delhi Capitals and a team in the UAE T20 League, is looking to invest in a new overseas cricket league team.

Vinod Bisht, director and chief executive, GMR Sports, said it could pick up a franchise either in the South African leagues or English and Australian T20 tournaments. It might also consider the nascent cricket league in the US.

GMR Sports is a division of infrastructure conglomerate GMR Group, which has also invested in other sports such as kabaddi and kho kho. It had recently bought a team in the Ultimate Kho Kho league, and owns a kabaddi team, UP Yodhas, in the Pro Kabaddi League.

Last month, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) earned 48,390 crore from the sale of media rights for IPL. As per the board’s rules, part of this income will be distributed among the 10 IPL teams over the next five years. Each team will make approximately 480 crore a year from the central revenue pool.

Asked how the IPL franchises will deploy the additional funds, Bisht said with the kind of following that cricket enjoys in India, it becomes very obvious that now IPL owners will look to deploy funds to strengthen their businesses by acquiring new franchises and sports affiliated businesses.“There are going to be leagues in the near future in various markets; some of them are existing leagues and some are new in the markets which are right now underserved. Whether the league will be in India or overseas, those lines are blurring now. Sports business owners are now looking at the entire world as a common playground," he added.

The IPL dynamics changed after the recent media rights auction, Bisht said. IPL franchises are now much more confident and that’s how they’re taking up franchises around the world.

“IPL franchise owners are becoming the benchmark, which every league owner is looking to grow to. It is the 15th season and IPL has stood the test of time, despite its ups and downs. The league has grown because it has got a lot more transparent, it is very well administered and it has all the rules and regulations of BCCI to ensure transparency and good governance in regulatory compliances," he added.

IPL team owners will even look at e-sports and fantasy games, which are allowed within the purview of the franchise agreement.

“All the franchises will look to get additional legs for the existing business. There is a community that is not backing physical games but may be keen to play e-sports. And we need to make a connection with that community, too," he added.

Although co-owning an IPL cricket team is now a profitable business, other sports are expected to inch towards profitability within the next two years.

The organization is also in the process of restructuring its non-cricketing sports franchises under one banner, Yodhas, as its Pro Kabaddi League team is known as UP Yodhas. Bisht said the company is making sure the sports franchise businesses add to its portfolio and spread the goodwill in respective markets such as Delhi, Dubai, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana. The group’s investments in new leagues will take two years to become profitable, Bisht said.

“Corporates were very happy to sponsor cricket before the IPL, but it takes some time for any sport to develop. We now even see single individual sports getting recognition because our players have started doing well at the world level. A sport’s popularity starts with sponsorship since that is how the corporate actually wet their feet first," he added.

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