NEW DELHI :
The novel coronavirus pandemic could deal a massive blow to the domestic and global sports industry, including Twenty20 cricket extravaganza Indian Premier League (IPL) that is set to begin on 29 March.
Although the ministry of external affairs on Thursday said the decision to hold large sporting events rests with the organizers, Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope earlier said the government could either postpone IPL or limit matches to TV audiences.
The Karnataka government has already written to the Centre seeking advice on whether IPL matches should be held in Bengaluru.
According to sports industry experts, IPL, where international players are a big draw, is at risk of taking a financial hit of around ₹10,000 crore. This includes gate receipts, sponsorship and media rights, franchise revenue and players fees as well as hospitality and travel- related costs. The big hit will be taken by BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), the organizer of the tournament.
“Around 35% of IPL talent (players) and production crew comes from other countries. With the new visa curbs, their entry might get restricted until they get work visas. All the safety and execution related concerns are valid as there are multiple stakeholders involved with obvious cost implications," said Vinit Karnik, business head, ESP Properties, GroupM.
BCCI, which organizes IPL, has called for an urgent meeting on Saturday with government officials to decide on the course of action.
Currently, an India versus South Africa three-match series is also being played for television audiences only, as per a government advisory. The India Open badminton event will be played in an empty stadium in Delhi on March 24-29. The Hero Indian Super League final to be played on 14 March will now be played behind closed doors in Goa. The final will be live telecast on Star Sports, Hotstar and Jio TV. Football Sports Development Ltd, which operates Indian Super League (ISL), will soon initiate the process of ticket refunds.
Globally, the virus outbreak has disrupted major sports events, even spelling uncertainty over the Tokyo Olympics set to begin in July. Although Japan and the International Olympic Committee have said the Games will go ahead as per schedule, the body may have to take a call on whether to host the event without in-stadia spectators.
“It (Olympics) is mother of all the sports events. The losses might run into billions of dollars," said Karnik.
Apart from key big properties, multiple events across sporting disciplines are either being postponed indefinitely or being cancelled.
The NBA had to abruptly suspend its season on Wednesday after a Utah Jazz player was found to have tested positive for coronavirus, moments before a game was to begin in Oklahoma City. The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s upcoming men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played with “only essential staff and limited family attendance" in various cities of the US.
Many rugby tournaments have already been postponed, including the annual men’s rugby championship Six Nations and Women’s Six Nations that had been scheduled for February and March and the Hong Kong and Singapore Sevens.
Formula One said that its upcoming Grand Prix motor racing in Bahrain will be closed to spectators, while the Chinese Grand Prix, scheduled for April, has been postponed. Football body Fifa said it would postpone the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The Indian Wells tennis tournament in Southern California, will not be held this month while The Fed Cup tennis finals, scheduled for Budapest in April, have been postponed.
Sharan Poovanna contributed to this story