After a two-year hiatus, the Indian Badminton League (IBL) is set to return in January next year. And if the Badminton Association of India (BAI) is to be believed, it’ll be bigger and better than the previous edition. Before the cash flows, though, the federation has indulged in some much-needed image makeover exercise.
The IBL, in its debut season in 2013, was labeled as a reasonable success. It attracted some of the best in the business (barring the Chinese shuttlers), the matches were high on quality and the stadium attendances were flattering. But at the same time, it also courted quite a few controversies.
International players were not paid their dues on time while doubles star Jwala Gutta was ‘banned for life’ after she was accused of leading a revolt for lack of clarity on rules.
Most damaging, however, was BAI’s public spat with the event’s promoters Sporty Solutions. The conflict meant that the second edition of the tournament had to be scrapped, which eventually resulted in the BAI terminated its contract with Sporty Solutions in April this year.
Now, the federation has taken it upon themselves to resurrect the tournament. BAI president Akhilesh Das Gupta said on Thursday that the second edition will be held in January 2016 and it is talks with the Chinese federation to release its players for the tournament. Despite being touted as badminton’s richest event, China had snubbed the event claiming the IBL clashed with their national games. However, Das Gupta said they have received positive response from most other international shuttlers despite it being an Olympic year.
“We decided to do it on our own from this year to ensure the longevity of the tournament. We have a one month window from December 17 to January 18 every year and we want to make it a permanent event without any gap or delay and for that it is important that BAI hosts the event on its own,” he said. The league will retain its six franchises format with Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Lucknow confirmed as venues. However, the federation is in talks to replace Pune with Chennai.
“We want to go with one state one team this time. Last time we had Mumbai and Pune from Maharashtra which is not advisable. So we are looking at Chennai as a venue this year,” Das Gupta said on Thursday.
It must be noted, however, that Pune Pistons — which became a part of the league just two days before the player auctions — had failed to make full payments to its players on time. The final installment of the salaries to the team’s star players was delayed by more than three months, even though the owners denied it.
To avoid such a scenario, Das Gupta said the franchises will have to furnish bank guarantees to protect interest of the players, or will have to make full payment before the tournament begins.
“We are taking steps to ensure it does not happen again. In our contract, we will categorically state that franchises will have to give bank guarantees,” he said.
The federation chief also said there will be a hike in the overall prize money of the event and also substantial increase in the purse available for each franchise to bag their players during the auction, which is likely to be held in November.
In the first edition, each team had a purse of Rs1.5 crore with the overall prize money of the event being Rs 5 crores. “The technical committee will finalize the rules soon. We are trying to plug all holes. It will be more lucrative and much more interesting edition,” Das Gupta said.