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Like Premier League, IPL can grow more in overseas markets: Rajasthan Royals owner

By, Mumbai
May 24, 2022 04:35 PM IST

Manoj Badale asks for the team to be judged over coming seasons, and expresses interest in investing in a women's IPL team.

The Rajasthan Royals, one of the original eight IPL franchises and inaugural winners, have profited from staying invested. Having spent $67 million to acquire the franchise in 2008, today they are reportedly worth $250-300 million. The Jaipur franchise has seen its ups and downs, a two-year ban over illegal betting by a minority shareholder who has since parted ways, to recently joining hands with global partners. Private investment firm RedBird Capital Partners, which has investments in Boston Red Sox, Liverpool and Toulouse FC, took up a 15% stake in RR last year. The latest to pick up minority stakes are NBA and NFL stars Chris Paul, Larry Fitzgerald and Kelvin Becchum.

PREMIUM
Rajasthan Royals owner Manoj Badale. (Getty)

In an email interview, RR's lead owner Manoj Badale says “these investments will provide Royals with significant learnings from the world of US sport”. He also talks about the upcoming IPL media rights and the team’s quest for a second title. 

Excerpts 

Is the minority ownership from NFL, NBA athletes more to extend RR’s global outreach and touch the US market than seek funding? 

After the two-year gap (RR and CSK were suspended for the 2016 and 2017 IPL seasons over illegal betting activities), we developed a plan on what our ownership structure should ideally comprise. We felt it would be best to get established sports investors on board, who bring experience from other markets and who can help position and enhance our brand. This investment not only signals the high level of interest in IPL globally, which is no doubt a positive for the Royals and IPL, it will also provide our franchise with significant learning from the world of US sport. Whether it is on-field performance, fan engagement or commercial activities, the US sports leagues are ahead of the rest of the world. At the same time, the US athlete community is, in a lot of different areas, ahead of where we are - both in Europe and in Asia. 

Chris, Larry and Kelvin are superstars in the NFL and NBA. Above all, they are great people, who we immediately connected with, and who share our franchise values as well as our vision. The guys have reached the pinnacle in massive globally popular leagues that are particularly advanced from both performance and commercial engagement standpoints. We hope this influx of investment is helping us put Royals and also IPL on the map in the US.

How has the Redbird Capital partnership worked both the parties? 

Though it's been a short relationship so far, RedBird Capital are bringing lots of value into the franchise. This has included expertise in high performance analytics, sponsorship structures and advanced approaches to digital monetisation. They have a deep understanding of scaling sports franchises - with investments in Boston Red Sox, Liverpool and Toulouse - and they are excited by the opportunity, in IPL and generally with Indian sport. We are greatly enjoying and benefiting from the partnership. 

What lessons have RR learnt from the two-year suspension in deciding partnerships and shareholding restructuring? 

We have consolidated control through the restructuring and we are focused on finding a smaller number of global partners to develop multi-year initiatives with. We have recalibrated our purpose, and also our strategy. However, we must continually keep recalibrating. 

RR is chasing its first IPL title since 2008. Why is it taking so long? 

For the initial 10 years since the league’s inception in 2008, most franchises were losing a lot of money and we followed a data-driven approach to find undervalued talent. However, we didn't have the capability to invest as heavily as other franchises. But during this time, we had a really good success record in terms of wins per dollar spent. We chased the title hard in 2014 and 2015, and had a period of consistent success under Rahul Dravid. 

When the new media rights deal happened in 2018, we were able to expand our investment, but were restricted in that auction in terms of who we could retain and who we could sign. So, we’ve had to wait for the next cycle to compete on a level-playing field. We are happy with the side we have recruited, but we can only judge that after a few seasons. 

When did you decide the Moneyball experiment had its place but it was time to maximise the use of the player purse? 

For us, Moneyball doesn’t mean spending less money. It means using analytics to build the best possible squad with the budget available. So, the Moneyball experiment hasn’t ended. It’s not an experiment. It’s just one of the ways we work in finding the best possible value in the auction. What we now have is the ability to spend all our purse because we have core profitability as a franchise, and hence we’re willing to spend all of it. However, we are still heavily using analytics to find the best quality players who we still believe are undervalued, to help us build a championship winning side. So, even if you're spending 7-8 crore on a player, they may still be undervalued in terms of the wins that they bring to the franchise. 

As a franchise, how promising does the upcoming BCCI media rights sale look? 

It’s great to see such competition for the media rights because it shows how this league has grown, how engaged fans are around the world and how desirable it is for these media platforms to own the rights. So that’s huge congratulations to BCCI for building such a successful league, and to all the franchises who have been a part of this, investing significant marketing dollars to grow it, to deepen the interactions and engagement with their fan bases. The process should bring new innovations into the broadcasting of this sport, which should bring fans closer to the action. That will be brilliant for the further growth of IPL. 

The viewership is of course huge in this country, but there’s still potential for growth in India and around the world with markets in the UK, US, the UAE growing significantly over the last three to five years. We think that could increase. It would be great to learn from the Premier League’s example where overseas rights equal their local rights. We think that’s the vision for IPL and that shows how much growth potential there is in IPL. 

Do you expect player salaries to go up further? 

I believe a structured increase has already been agreed, which is 5 crore per year, which again will maintain IPL in being the highest paid league in the world and keep players extremely well paid. On the other hand, franchises continue to invest in players and in the game not just through player fees but through the academies, centres of excellence, technology, analytics, physical and mental support. So, there is continuous investment outside of just the salary that supports the players. 

How different has the 10-team IPL experience been? Overseas player availability and calendar are always a challenge. 

Having two new teams in the league activates two new locations, which is really exciting. These locations have huge populations and a great passion for cricket. From a player availability standpoint, we focused on signing players from countries that will be fully available for the season. We’ve learned from the past the impact it has when you do miss players for different phases in the tournament, and hence that was a big focus area. The tournament has been managed really well for it to be in one city only so far, and the sell-outs for all matches is incredibly impressive, which shows the passion and enthusiasm for the sport and for IPL. In years to come, it will be really exciting as every franchise is activating in their state. 

Would RR want to invest in women's IPL? Have you spoken with BCCI? 

We’ve already shared our interest with BCCI for investing in a women’s IPL franchise. That passion around women’s sport, women’s cricket in this country is like nothing compared to anywhere else in the world. The quality coming through is really significant, and if we can help develop that further and make India the No 1 competing women’s nation through IPL, it would be fantastic for the sport. 

We’re definitely keen to be involved. More importantly, we want to develop women’s cricket around the country. In the past, we’ve launched competitions such as the Junior Royals Girls Cup in Rajasthan, and will continue to do so. Again, for us it’s not just about women's IPL, it’s everything else that goes around it to support the ecosystem of women’s cricket. We’re really excited about the prospect of women’s IPL.

The Rajasthan Royals, one of the original eight IPL franchises and inaugural winners, have profited from staying invested. Having spent $67 million to acquire the franchise in 2008, today they are reportedly worth $250-300 million. The Jaipur franchise has seen its ups and downs, a two-year ban over illegal betting by a minority shareholder who has since parted ways, to recently joining hands with global partners. Private investment firm RedBird Capital Partners, which has investments in Boston Red Sox, Liverpool and Toulouse FC, took up a 15% stake in RR last year. The latest to pick up minority stakes are NBA and NFL stars Chris Paul, Larry Fitzgerald and Kelvin Becchum.

PREMIUM
Rajasthan Royals owner Manoj Badale. (Getty)

In an email interview, RR's lead owner Manoj Badale says “these investments will provide Royals with significant learnings from the world of US sport”. He also talks about the upcoming IPL media rights and the team’s quest for a second title. 

Excerpts 

Is the minority ownership from NFL, NBA athletes more to extend RR’s global outreach and touch the US market than seek funding? 

After the two-year gap (RR and CSK were suspended for the 2016 and 2017 IPL seasons over illegal betting activities), we developed a plan on what our ownership structure should ideally comprise. We felt it would be best to get established sports investors on board, who bring experience from other markets and who can help position and enhance our brand. This investment not only signals the high level of interest in IPL globally, which is no doubt a positive for the Royals and IPL, it will also provide our franchise with significant learning from the world of US sport. Whether it is on-field performance, fan engagement or commercial activities, the US sports leagues are ahead of the rest of the world. At the same time, the US athlete community is, in a lot of different areas, ahead of where we are - both in Europe and in Asia. 

Chris, Larry and Kelvin are superstars in the NFL and NBA. Above all, they are great people, who we immediately connected with, and who share our franchise values as well as our vision. The guys have reached the pinnacle in massive globally popular leagues that are particularly advanced from both performance and commercial engagement standpoints. We hope this influx of investment is helping us put Royals and also IPL on the map in the US.

How has the Redbird Capital partnership worked both the parties? 

Though it's been a short relationship so far, RedBird Capital are bringing lots of value into the franchise. This has included expertise in high performance analytics, sponsorship structures and advanced approaches to digital monetisation. They have a deep understanding of scaling sports franchises - with investments in Boston Red Sox, Liverpool and Toulouse - and they are excited by the opportunity, in IPL and generally with Indian sport. We are greatly enjoying and benefiting from the partnership. 

What lessons have RR learnt from the two-year suspension in deciding partnerships and shareholding restructuring? 

We have consolidated control through the restructuring and we are focused on finding a smaller number of global partners to develop multi-year initiatives with. We have recalibrated our purpose, and also our strategy. However, we must continually keep recalibrating. 

RR is chasing its first IPL title since 2008. Why is it taking so long? 

For the initial 10 years since the league’s inception in 2008, most franchises were losing a lot of money and we followed a data-driven approach to find undervalued talent. However, we didn't have the capability to invest as heavily as other franchises. But during this time, we had a really good success record in terms of wins per dollar spent. We chased the title hard in 2014 and 2015, and had a period of consistent success under Rahul Dravid. 

When the new media rights deal happened in 2018, we were able to expand our investment, but were restricted in that auction in terms of who we could retain and who we could sign. So, we’ve had to wait for the next cycle to compete on a level-playing field. We are happy with the side we have recruited, but we can only judge that after a few seasons. 

When did you decide the Moneyball experiment had its place but it was time to maximise the use of the player purse? 

For us, Moneyball doesn’t mean spending less money. It means using analytics to build the best possible squad with the budget available. So, the Moneyball experiment hasn’t ended. It’s not an experiment. It’s just one of the ways we work in finding the best possible value in the auction. What we now have is the ability to spend all our purse because we have core profitability as a franchise, and hence we’re willing to spend all of it. However, we are still heavily using analytics to find the best quality players who we still believe are undervalued, to help us build a championship winning side. So, even if you're spending 7-8 crore on a player, they may still be undervalued in terms of the wins that they bring to the franchise. 

As a franchise, how promising does the upcoming BCCI media rights sale look? 

It’s great to see such competition for the media rights because it shows how this league has grown, how engaged fans are around the world and how desirable it is for these media platforms to own the rights. So that’s huge congratulations to BCCI for building such a successful league, and to all the franchises who have been a part of this, investing significant marketing dollars to grow it, to deepen the interactions and engagement with their fan bases. The process should bring new innovations into the broadcasting of this sport, which should bring fans closer to the action. That will be brilliant for the further growth of IPL. 

The viewership is of course huge in this country, but there’s still potential for growth in India and around the world with markets in the UK, US, the UAE growing significantly over the last three to five years. We think that could increase. It would be great to learn from the Premier League’s example where overseas rights equal their local rights. We think that’s the vision for IPL and that shows how much growth potential there is in IPL. 

Do you expect player salaries to go up further? 

I believe a structured increase has already been agreed, which is 5 crore per year, which again will maintain IPL in being the highest paid league in the world and keep players extremely well paid. On the other hand, franchises continue to invest in players and in the game not just through player fees but through the academies, centres of excellence, technology, analytics, physical and mental support. So, there is continuous investment outside of just the salary that supports the players. 

How different has the 10-team IPL experience been? Overseas player availability and calendar are always a challenge. 

Having two new teams in the league activates two new locations, which is really exciting. These locations have huge populations and a great passion for cricket. From a player availability standpoint, we focused on signing players from countries that will be fully available for the season. We’ve learned from the past the impact it has when you do miss players for different phases in the tournament, and hence that was a big focus area. The tournament has been managed really well for it to be in one city only so far, and the sell-outs for all matches is incredibly impressive, which shows the passion and enthusiasm for the sport and for IPL. In years to come, it will be really exciting as every franchise is activating in their state. 

Would RR want to invest in women's IPL? Have you spoken with BCCI? 

We’ve already shared our interest with BCCI for investing in a women’s IPL franchise. That passion around women’s sport, women’s cricket in this country is like nothing compared to anywhere else in the world. The quality coming through is really significant, and if we can help develop that further and make India the No 1 competing women’s nation through IPL, it would be fantastic for the sport. 

We’re definitely keen to be involved. More importantly, we want to develop women’s cricket around the country. In the past, we’ve launched competitions such as the Junior Royals Girls Cup in Rajasthan, and will continue to do so. Again, for us it’s not just about women's IPL, it’s everything else that goes around it to support the ecosystem of women’s cricket. We’re really excited about the prospect of women’s IPL.

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