Yogesh shetty, CEO of the GMR Delhi Daredevils, believes his franchise has the potential to represent the "soul of Delhi". He spoke in detail to the Hindustan Times about what his group hoped to achieve. Excerpts:
Why buy a franchise? Why not adopt simpler routes like sponsorship if you want branding?
India is the only place where community-based sports have not been professionalised. I’ve spent a lot of time working in sports, especially football, where it is community and club that is the focus, not country. National teams are one thing but it is in community-based teams that there is a real connect between the teams and their fans.
Cricket has got such passion in this country but it’s not community based. You have the Ranji Trophy but support is not based on team lines, it’s regional. When they professionalised domestic cricket in this form, we realised it was the best way to connect. The important thing for us is connect. And when you want to connect with the soul of the people, the soul of a city, then cricket is the only way to do so.
But again you’re saying this venture is just a vehicle to deliver a message …
No, I don’t agree. I’d go further. When we looked at the bid we thought what cricket meant to our corporate social responsibility. It is very important for us. We saw a hook in cricket but we also want to conduct cricket clinics, set up academies. For us it’s not just this tournament; what happens after that is important.
How important is it that franchisees view the IPL in this manner and not just as a commercial exercise?
It is vital that franchisees view it in this manner. No one, or for that matter the IPL itself, will succeed unless you create a fan base, a fan base connect, and a fan base rivalry between teams. If it is just commercialisation for the sake of commercialisation, then you don’t get connect.
Everyone says they want to do something to develop the game, to work at the grassroots. What does this mean?
It’s early days but we’re talking to the DDCA, because this is our home ground. We’re looking to have cricket clinics with a different texture. We have some big plans for gully cricket. This is not just about people achieving professionalism in cricket, it is about people getting joy out of cricket. That’s where things like gully cricket, beach cricket and things like that come along. Cricket is now not done with just the sporting angle in mind, it is about family and it is about entertainment, especially in Twenty20 cricket.
In India, fans are emotional to the extent that an early exit from the World Cup means houses getting tarred and stones thrown at buildings. Isn’t there a fear this could happen to you, and your brand if the Daredevils lose badly?
People are passionate about country but not about club. When it comes to club, it’s different. Cricket does not have boundaries of that kind. We will be the only club to form the kind of fan club that gives them some kind of a stake in saying what they would like out of this club. We’re going to create fan clubs that are truly fan clubs.
You’ve talked about corporate plans. But what of cricket? What kind of structure are you going to put in place?
We are going to get the world’s best. It is one thing to get the best technical people, but even these people need a proper framework for them to function efficiently. We need leaders in this franchise. Everybody is already calling this a franchise but as of now it is just a territory —- for it to become a franchise will take a lot of hard work.