Indian Premier League 2012 February 5, 2012

Franchises perturbed by Sahara pullout

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A number of IPL franchises have expressed concern about the potential damage to the IPL's image from Sahara Pune Warriors' abrupt withdrawal from the league, with some saying the decision might make sponsors think twice about associating with the tournament in the future. An hour before the player auction on Saturday, Sahara India Parivar cut its ties with the BCCI, withdrawing its sponsorship of the Indian team and its ownership of the IPL Pune franchise. The announcement took the other franchises "completely by surprise" and has thrown the schedule and format of the tournament into doubt again.

"When a franchise like this walks, it is not good for the league," a team administrator told ESPNcricinfo. While he said allowances must be made as the IPL is a new product and, as with any new business, there will be teething problems, he said the reasons "why this is happening are not good".

The Pune Warriors are the fourth team over the past 18 months whose status ahead of an IPL season remains unclear. In 2010, the BCCI terminated Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab but they took the board to court and won the right to participate in the 2011 IPL. Last September, Kochi Tuskers Kerala became the third team to be terminated, though one of the team's co-owners said last week that they plan to file a case of their own in court and are confident of being part of the 2012 season despite their players having been sold to other teams.

It is this uncertainty over which teams will be part of the league, franchises said, that sends the wrong signal to sponsors and partners. No business likes uncertainty. Franchises typically sign multi-year deals with their sponsors. But if a sponsor can't be sure the team they are backing will remain in the league, they are going to be jittery about committing their money and resources.

The operational details of the IPL - number of matches, dates etc - are up in the air as well but, beyond the logistics, it is the constantly shifting goalposts that add to the confusion. It renders decision-making by both franchises and their partners more difficult because the underlying factors that determine those decisions are unclear. A sponsorship deal for a team that plays 14 matches will naturally differ from one for a team that plays 18 matches. If you can't be sure of the number of matches, it becomes that much harder to put a value on a contract.

Adding to the league's concerns is the fact that the 2011 IPL produced the lowest television ratings of any of the four seasons, an average Television Viewer Rating (TVR) of 3.91 per game, down 29% from 5.51 in 2010. Even the final, which drew a TVR of 6.96, paled in comparison to the 12.85 rating in 2010. It was also the first final to draw a single-digit rating.

Santosh Desai, brand analyst and managing director of Future Brands, said he felt that the 2012 season would be a crucial barometer of the IPL's long-term prospects because of a number of coalescing factors, including the general slowdown of economies around the world and the other problems surrounding Indian cricket at the moment: the national team's poor performances away from home and the loss of the domestic broadcaster. In such a scenario, he said, something like the Warriors quitting the league takes on a larger significance.

"[The IPL] is sentiment-driven. The moment you take away the good cheer, everything looks darker and gloomier. It begs greater scrutiny on the part of the franchises of the harder, more rational aspects of the IPL. From every single quarter there seems to be some reason for doubt. So this could be the most challenging season."

Desai also said a lack of proper governance, going back to when Lalit Modi was the IPL chairman, was part of the problem. "Once you build something, you need a steady hand, someone with a long-term perspective. Auctions are too frequent. If you look at the manner of the BCCI overall, the conflict of interest issues have not been resolved. So certainly governance is an issue."

It's too early, though, to say the IPL itself is in serious trouble. When the NBA went on strike last year, the consensus opinion was that the league's viewership would suffer if and when the league started up again. The strike was eventually called off and six weeks into the 2011-12 season, television ratings are up across the board.

Sahara's issues with the BCCI relate largely to the IPL. In 2008, Sahara's bid for one of the first eight IPL franchises was "thwarted", as it said; in 2010, Sahara successfully bid US$370 million for the Pune franchise but later asked the board for a refund of what it called its "extra bid money" stating that its bid price had been calculated on the basis that 94 matches would be played per season from 2011 onwards but only 74 matches were played last season. Other requests, such as not having player retention to create a "level-playing field" or allowing one extra foreign player for the two new teams were also turned down.

Some are also still hopeful that a compromise can be reached between Sahara and the BCCI. "We sincerely hope the parties come to a consensus and a solution is reached in the best interest of the league and cricket," a franchise official said.

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • maddy20 on February 8, 2012, 8:39 GMT

    @satish619chandar I suggest that you read the article about Flintoff's auction on cricinfo. CSK and MI are the most favored franchises. Anyways I wish that this whole IPL thing is quashed once and for all!

  • Gizza on February 8, 2012, 4:04 GMT

    MI, RCB, KKR and CSK get all the benefits. RR, DD and KXIP are treated like rubbish. And they tried adding two news teams in Pune and Cochin instead of UP, Haryana or Bihar. They really should change the name of the IPL to SIPL (South Indian Premier League).

  • Selva_247 on February 7, 2012, 13:51 GMT

    Dont understand on what basis people are saying BCCI is tilted towards CSK and MI. Just because Srinivasan is the BCCI President. This is the Problem with Indians, most of us critizize the indians who who do a good job and in fact the people who critizise are really worth nothing. If you give the same task to them, they will not be able to do 1% good of what the person they are critisizing does. No body can spoil or humiliate india othere than the indians themselves.

  • dummy4fb on February 7, 2012, 12:00 GMT

    I don't think that N. Srinivasan is the right man to head BCCI. He owns Chennai Super Kings, is BCCI President & is going to hold a major position in ICC pretty soon because of strong BCCI cloud. I read an article by Lalit Modi who is not a saint either but i am of the same opinion what he said about Srinivasan. There have been too many instances where a conflict of interest arose & CSK always benefited from that. There are numerous issues/cases against BCCI & even more against Srinivasan where they/he tried to extend favours to some people/franchisee at the cost of others. One wonder how could CSK managed to retain almost the same team (except Murli) last year & also managed to get Jadeja this year. Every single franchisee was after Jadeja & see who got him....Mr. Srinivasan's CSK. I would seriously want Indian govt. to dissolve BCCI & set up a new board with ex-players managing the same.

  • bala_sachin on February 6, 2012, 18:15 GMT

    shame on the part of BCCI to insult a sponsor like sahara who cricket passionate and dedicated for cricket deelopment

    if BCCI ego continues IPL may disappear in some years............waste BCCI

  • ashok16 on February 6, 2012, 16:55 GMT

    Too much international cricket is diluting the IPL.

  • venbas on February 6, 2012, 11:51 GMT

    Sack all the Franchicees one by one. Srinivasan and Sharad Pawar can play against each other then... :)

  • Saleem07 on February 6, 2012, 10:08 GMT

    IPL makes money, but there should be some cricket as well, money is not everything as they say.

  • FoollyFedUp on February 6, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    The IPL is heavily tilted towards MI and CSK. Will not be surprised if RR, KXIP and the rest sell their franchise. Conflict of interests will increase even more as Dhoni will step down from Test Cricket (no big loss) and focus only on franchise cricket. And the Board President will probably hijack the entire agenda and grind it to dust. Who knows, his company employees may become CFOs and Admin guys in the board?

  • satish619chandar on February 6, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    @GlobalCricketLover : I can see BCCI favouring MI boldly as they allowed 5 foreigners in CLT20 inspite of a player who was made to fake an injury.. Even RCB got huge favor in retaining Gayle.. How did that happen? Sahara too got Dada out of auction!! CSK didn't get any favor atleast publicly like these guys seen here.. I expect DC and KXIP to go ut sooner than later.. Their activities show no interest in IPL..

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