The shutdown effect: IPL’s domestic offshoots wither
While the scramble is still on to fit in IPL when cricket’s Future Tour Programme, disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, resumes, the league’s domestic off-shoots run by some of the BCCI state units are staring at the prospect of no action this year. With IPL being a money-spinner, players, franchises and the cricket board are desperate to somehow salvage the season and ensure they don’t lose out on the income. Most state T20 leagues, run on a minor scale in comparison, don’t even generate profits.
Four major state associations—Tamil Nadu (TNCA), Karnataka (KSCA), Mumbai (MCA) and Saurashtra (SCA)— run T20 franchise leagues. Andhra had announced a six-team T20 franchise league last year, but the project didn’t take off due to lack of investors. With this year wiped off the cricket calendar, that plan has been shelved for now.
The four major state leagues have continued despite questions about financial viability cropping up from time to time. They provide players, domestic and even those in the fringes of India selection, an opportunity to showcase talent and boost their income.
The nationwide lockdown is in place till May 17 and there is no indication how cricket can resume, even behind closed doors. Most state T20 leagues are held after the IPL finishes at May-end. “We were originally supposed to start TNPL in mid-June. That’s not happening now. We will explore an end July-August start, but that depends on a number of factors,” says TNCA secretary, RS Ramasaamy.
According to TNCA’s estimates, it makes an annual profit of around R5 crore from its T20 league, now approaching its fifth edition. This after sharing broadcast revenue with eight franchises, which are unhappy their costs exceed revenue. The annual operating costs of a franchise, including the salaries of players and support staff, range from R80 lakh to 1 crore. Last year, 165 players in TNPL received a pay cheque. “We will have to speak with the franchises and broadcasters before taking a call on the league this year. It will ultimately depend on the government permission,” says Ramasaamy.
KSCA’s Karnataka Premier League (KPL) is currently suspended, till a probe into match-fixing charges is completed by police and BCCI’s anti-corruption unit. It was the first state T20 league to take shape, in 2009, but has only completed eight interrupted editions.
The Karnataka league with seven franchises has IPL-style player auctions. Each team has a salary cap of Rs 30 lakh. If KPL was held, R2.1 crore in player salaries would have been paid, league officials say. But Covid-19 has dimmed the prospects of the league this year.
MCA’s league is only two-years old, but is also embroiled in controversies; franchises have revolted against the organising company and a new governing council is yet to be set up. Despite these issues, the league offers a platform for players to stake claim to bigger honours, playing for the country—all-rounder Shivam Dube, who made his India debut late last year, is a beneficiary. Teams spent R2.73 crore on 155 players in the player draft last year. “Mumbai is badly affected by the virus. We will follow the government guidelines and see when cricket can resume,” MCA secretary Sanjay Naik says.
“Investing in T20 Mumbai does not come cheap. The cost of running the franchise is big. In this project, we can’t look to break even before year five or six,” says Mumbai North Panthers owner, Rajdip Gupta.
“Now, a year will have to be added to that. So, the ROI (return on investment) does take a hit. The bright side in a sport like cricket in Mumbai is, when action resumes, fans will come again,” adds the owner of the team, which is led by young India batsman Prithvi Shaw.
The youngest of the state leagues, SCA’s Saurashtra Premier League, was launched last year. Cheteshwar Pujara was the star attraction, and the 85 players divided into five teams benefited with a salary purse that exceeded R1 crore. “More than anything else, it is to provide an opportunity for players from across Saurashtra to showcase their cricket. We were supposed to start after IPL. No decision on the event this year has been taken,” says SCA president Jaydev Shah.
State associations’ income heavily depends on their share of BCCI’s TV rights, the bulk of which comes from IPL. “We get about R30-35 crore from BCCI. This will naturally take a hit if there is no IPL,” says KSCA treasurer Vinay Mruthyunjaya.
The state associations may not lose sleep over their T20 leagues being hit by the virus this year, but for many among the 600-odd players in the four state leagues it would be an opportunity lost, to earn handsome salaries and impress IPL talent scouts.