The T20 World Cup postponement has opened a window for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to organise this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL). Subject to approvals, the tournament will be played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where, unlike India, the Covid curve has flattened considerably. And there’s an outside chance that some crowd might be allowed at the venues.
When will the IPL take place?
The BCCI has written to the Indian government, seeking permission to organise the IPL in the UAE. Subject to the government’s approval, the Board will announce the dates for the tournament. An IPL Governing Council meeting will be convened soon to formally announce the tournament schedule and the standard operating procedure (SOP) for all the stakeholders. The postponement of the T20 World Cup has created a window for the T20 league from mid-September to early November. As a chief executive of an IPL franchise informed, the BCCI has verbally communicated to the IPL teams that the tournament will be played from September 19 to November 8. Meanwhile, the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) has confirmed that it has received the official Letter of Intent from the BCCI to host the 2020 edition of the IPL.
Will the matches be held behind closed doors?
BCCI officials say that the local administration is mulling on allowing some crowd at the venue—50 per cent of the stadium capacity. They say that by the time the IPL starts, the situation would be even better in the UAE. Data put out by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that UAE has 58,562 confirmed coronavirus cases from January 29 to July 26, with 343 deaths. At 51,628, the recovery rate is also pretty high in the Emirates. By September, local sports events are expected to begin in Dubai. Also, Dubai will host the European Tour golf finale before the IPL. So there’s an outside chance that some spectators might be allowed at the venues for the IPL matches.
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Then again, as a member of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) informed, the ECB is doing a recce of the three venues in the UAE—Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah—and surveying the entry and exit points. If even 20-30 per cent of spectators are allowed, every venue needs to have sanitisation tunnels and all other necessary measures as per safety protocols.
Can fans travel to watch the matches?
Yes, they can if they test negative for Covid-19. If the matches are held in Dubai for example, travelling fans have to either get a PCR test done within 96 hours before embarking or take one after reaching there. Only those tested positive will be quarantined for 14 days. A Dubai Sports Council official, however, said that if overseas fans are allowed, they will have to undergo a quarantine period. Also, UAE is the only country in Middle East where international flights are regularly operating.
Will the franchises suffer loss if matches are held behind closed doors?
They will lose out on income through gate receipts. Gate receipts vary for different franchises. Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), for example, enjoy high gate receipts with a 67,000-seater Eden Gardens as their home venue and very high turnouts. Franchises that have smaller stadiums as their home venues don’t earn high gate receipts. Usually, gate revenue is around Rs 250 crore, eight franchises combined. According to an official, each IPL franchise is going to lose at least Rs 15-20 crore if the tournament is played behind closed doors.
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Have the franchises started preparing for the IPL?
Yes, they have. Like a Chennai Super Kings (CSK) official said, they have started enquiring about hotels in the UAE. Several franchises have also started negotiating with their sponsors. Every team will have a camp before the tournament, but there’s still no clarity on when the camps could be held. A franchise official informed that they haven’t received visa confirmation for their foreign players from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
CSK, for example, are planning to send their Indian players for a camp in Dubai towards the end of this month or early August. Delhi Capitals, too, will have a camp in Dubai, according to a franchise official. A few franchises, though, want a three-week camp for their Indian players at a remote place in the country, a city that falls under green zone. Overseas players for all the franchises will directly check in at Dubai, but teams are still unsure about when their foreign players will turn up. In countries like South Africa for example, no international flight is operating yet. So it is very likely that foreign players will come in batches.
Will the franchises lose sponsorship revenue?
Commercial success in modern-day sport is determined by the eyeballs on TV and digital streaming. So from the point of view of the BCCI and host broadcaster, it doesn’t matter much if the IPL matches are played before empty stands. The same applies to the IPL franchises, too. But as a franchise CEO put it, “in the middle of an economic recession caused by the pandemic, overall sponsorship revenue will come down by 10-15 per cent”. According to industry estimates, the eight franchises in total are expected to earn sponsorship revenue worth Rs 450-500 crore.
So, an IPL in the UAE is not going to be profitable for the franchises?
It will make an impact on their revenue, but in this case, kickstarting the IPL season far outweighs not having the tournament at all. Overhead expenses for an IPL away from home will be higher by at least 10-15 per cent. It’s still not decided whether the BCCI will take care of the bio-security arrangements for the teams or the teams will have to do it on their own. Also, it’s not known whether the BCCI will compensate the franchises for sponsorship and gate revenue losses. And yet, as a franchise official said: “Without the IPL, we would have had zero revenue (broadcast revenue, sponsorship revenue etc.) and no payouts also.” Roughly, franchises would have suffered a revenue loss of Rs 250 crore each if this year’s tournament were cancelled.
How important is the IPL for the BCCI?
The BCCI’s revenue loss in case of a cancellation would have been in excess of Rs 2,000 crore upfront. Star, the host broadcaster, pays the Board Rs 3,270 crore per year, which the latter shares with the franchises in a 50:50 ratio. So the BCCI would have suffered a broadcast revenue loss north of Rs 1,500 crore. Vivo, the IPL’s title sponsor, gives the BCCI Rs 439 crore per year, while Dream11, the IPL’s official partner, forks out Rs 161 crore annually. The Board would have missed out on that as well. Taking all revenue streams into account, without the IPL, the BCCI had been staring at a Rs 3,000-crore black hole. The BCCI distributes 70 per cent of the broadcast revenue from international cricket among its members, while 26 per cent of that goes to cricketers. The IPL revenue fills the BCCI coffers and helps the Board build infrastructure and look after age-group and domestic cricket.
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