Announced with much fanfare in the buoyant backdrop of the Srinagar Nationals last year and wishfully hoping for a rub-off effect of IPL,the Indian Badminton League is lurching in its take-off.
Two postponements from February to June,and now from June to August havent helped its cause,and theres strong murmurs about a third deferment,given that Delhi-based Sporty Solutionz who own this sports property,have announced neither the six franchise owners nor a date for the players auction.
With the announcements of team-owners put on hold again they were supposed to be declared earlier this week players and the games followers are beginning to wonder. Theyve postponed the tournament saying that they want to ensure availability of the best players. But from what weve heard,theyre struggling to find team-buyers. Only 2-3 groups came close to committing,and even those are not confirmed, said a source who is tracking the developments from close quarters.
Sporty Solutionzs Manish Kumar,VP-PR & Event,said,All franchises are sold,but owners have asked us to keep it under wraps.
On the one hand theyve promised player auctions in the second week of June,but with no clarity about whos pitching in with the money we expect another postponement, the source added. When the league was announced in December,the player auctions were slated for March,but have been pushed back twice now.
As such,the trouble is not the organisers inability to find team-buyers for its no doubt a humongous task to sell a sport,except cricket in India.
The problem,an observer says,is the ambitious scale of the league which meant that anyone interested in picking a team would have to shell out Rs 6 crore for a season. The sport even after factoring in Saina Nehwals popularity isnt exactly seen as a goldmine for corporate sponsors neither in financial returns,nor in ensuring visibility for a brand,as was envisaged by those who put the league-plan together.
Its still badminton,and keep in mind Saina Nehwals the only athlete who can command that kind of a budget. The rest are good,promising players,but nowhere close to fetching that kind of a spending purse. A franchise worth Rs 3.5 crore,player expenses around Rs 1.5 cr and at least Rs 50-75 lakh on logistics is far too preposterous for a sport like badminton, a critic who preaches scaling down of the entire exercise,stresses.
A leading corporate,keen on investing in badmintons grassroot development,however,was not too excited about pouring cash on an untested league and over-paying average Indian shuttlers.
Of the 6 teams Pune Vijetas,Lucknow Warriors,Rajdhani Smashers,Mumbai Masters,Karnataka Kings and Hyderabad Hotshots only the champion team has any hopes of eventually breaking even. At 5-6 crore,its a tough call for the corporates to take. A tad unrealistic,given that returns are hard to spell out, the source adds.
In a definite over-hyping of Indian players,a top foreign doubles star might end up earning 20 per cent of what a lesser-ranked Indian icon does.
Only Saina has that stature,so the leagues gotten its proportions a little skewed. Theyre getting their math wrong, says the coach. The event managers,will no doubt keep the regulation entertainment bit of the bargain,but they look like goofing up on the badminton. Former players like Vimal Kumar who were named on the governing council of the IBL,are largely clueless about the goings-on and have not been part of a single meeting.
Pradeep Gandhe,BAIs official on IBLs governing council,said that there would be more clarity in the coming days. Well set the ball rolling soon, he said,not committing to a date.
The event managers obtusely approached a Danish legend to be a coach,and offered him a fraction of what an Indian ranked 15 would be given. The Chinese and Korean shuttlers – strictly controlled by their national team centres – havent confirmed participation,meaning the absolute big guys,unlike in IPL,might not be seen in action.
Meanwhile Indian players,paraded as heroes and promised the big bucks,remain anxious,with no clarity on the league that was promised to bring them glamour. As followers,we all want badminton to grow. We are hoping it takes off,for it will be good for the whole fraternity. But the IBL as it seems today doesnt inspire confidence, the critic adds.