As thrilling as the concept of the Indian Premier League moving abroad next year might seem, it could be a fairly strenuous affair for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) if they go ahead with it.
Though the BCCI has shifted the tournament abroad twice due to general elections -- South Africa for the entire duration in 2009 and two weeks in the UAE in 2014 -- there is a possibility that a third such effort could leave it a bit shortchanged financially. And since this jamboree is all about money, the ramifications of such a move can’t be overlooked.
The IPL is a product of the BCCI but it has been nurtured by the bottomless passion and business interest for the game in India that can never be replicated in another country. Once shifted to another country, the IPL necessarily boils down to just a TV product that has to live by the conditions set by other boards, compromise on gate receipts and dipping interests from sponsors who want their brands to adorn stadiums where locals can identify with them.
A case in point is the 2014 IPL that was hosted in the UAE for the first two weeks. Three stadiums were shared by eight teams in blistering heat and in front of not-so-encouraging turnouts. The first casualty was the concept of home and away matches -- the backbone of any competitive league. It reflected on the general turnout.
Then the BCCI had to accept the franchises requests of subsidising the cost of hosting every match. The norm is that the franchises pay everything from stadium rent to medical and security expenses along with the lodging and travelling between cities in India. But during the UAE leg, the BCCI had to agree to the franchises’ request to chip in with their expenditure. Franchises had to shell out close to Rs 30 lakh for every match but in 2014 the BCCI agreed to pay Rs 35 lakh per day to the UAE authorities from their own coffers.
The net result reflected in the annual report of 2014-15. According to the report, the gross receipts in the 2014 IPL dropped to Rs 1,000 crore in comparison to Rs 1,194 crore the previous year. The surplus dropped from Rs 334.86 crore in 2013 to Rs 126.17 crore in 2014. And these weren’t the only hits the BCCI had to take in the last two years.
The Champions League T20 was a huge flop but still it paid the BCCI Rs 743 crore through rights income. With the tournament scrapped, it would set back the BCCI by a lot. Similarly, with BCCI chief Shashank Manohar reportedly eager to undo the ICC’s ‘Big Three’ domination by considering paying back India’s bigger chunk of the revenue, things look a bit tight for them. Even the interest earned from banks plummeted to Rs 86 crore for the 2014-15 fiscal from Rs 121 crore.
Expenses, of course, will only escalate. For the just ended 2015-16 fiscal, the BCCI had budgeted Rs 928 crore on cricket operations --- about an 80% jump from Rs 516 crore the previous fiscal. Subsidies to state associations for hosting domestic matches as well as personal gratis to retired players have been jacked up. Everything points to the possibility that the BCCI’s expenditure might put a serious dent on their corpus in future years if income doesn’t pick up.
In such a scenario, shifting a literal cash cow like the IPL abroad could only make the BCCI sweat more. That day might be far though, given the BCCI still had a general fund of over Rs 2,000 crore after the end of the 2014-15 fiscal.
Their current financial might is perhaps stoking the BCCI’s desire to relocate the IPL in the face of increasing litigations in different states now. On its backfoot due to the Lodha Committee recommendations -- few of which the BCCI have already started implementing -- the BCCI can’t also afford to irk the general public, who are faced with bigger issues.
What may have made them more impatient are the roadblocks put up in their way. And the gripe surrounding the IPL is much bigger than, say, a two-month tour of Australia where the BCCI have the power to change venues at short notice.
Here, the BCCI have to deal with franchises owned by the who’s who of India and league sponsors who want to make the most out of the IPL business-wise. Suddenly shifting matches to Jaipur from a hugely popular Wankhede Stadium is bound to worry a lot of people.
The only way out for the BCCI is to perhaps liaise better with each of the state governments ahead of the IPL. They have already had their share of embarrassment by shifting the India-Pakistan match from Dharamsala to Kolkata during the World T20.
But that was just one match.
Relocating the IPL not because of a mass reason like general elections could make the BCCI’s situation look as bad as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) that staged the first season of Pakistan Super League in the UAE for a completely different reason. That is certainly not the image the BCCI would want to live with.