IPL 2014 news March 12, 2014

Franchises relieved with IPL schedule


An easier and more relaxed travel schedule, familiar playing conditions and more freedom to fulfill sponsor obligations are some of the major advantages of the IPL's decision to conduct the first, and if need be middle, phase of the tournament in the UAE and Bangladesh, according to franchises.

With just 16 matches being played in the first phase in the UAE, franchises say they are much relieved after anxiety over the past few weeks over the overseas venue and schedule. A substantial part of that edgy feeling, franchise officials have pointed out, emerged from the nervousness of their sponsors who were eager to know if the displacement of the tournament overseas would affect the activation exercise of their brands.

"It is a good start. The IPL has taken a good first step," said Hemant Dua, chief executive of Delhi Daredevils. "It removes the uncertainty. The advantages of having the tournament in India are obvious from the sponsor and revenue point of view. I do not need to adjust to the demands of the sponsor if the league does not happen in India."

During the auction most franchises had displayed a chin-up attitude stating they had assembled squads that could compete in any conditions. But subsequently their tone became more defensive as a few suggested that if half the tournament was played on bouncier pitches in South Africa before returning to India, it could damage their chances of making the knockouts.

However, with the UAE and Bangladesh being familiar terrain, the franchises have assumed a more confident tone. "Playing in familiar conditions is an advantage," a franchise head coach said. "And once the tournament shifts back to India it would be smooth considering the playing conditions would be virtually similar."

Considering the three venues across the UAE would host 16 matches, each of the eight teams would play four games in the first two weeks of the tournament. "Four matches in 14 days is not terrible," the franchise head said. "It is not make or break for a team in the initial part of the tournament. That would also mean it is a pretty relaxed schedule for every team considering you would be staying in one place. The travel headaches would be significantly less."

This cheerful mood was non-existent in the last two weeks especially. Most franchises ESPNcricinfo spoke to confided that their sponsors, both old and new, were curious as to how they would carry out the activation programmes where players endorse their brands. Officials pointed out that many sponsors did not even want to "lock" the deals till the final venue was announced.

"Realistically it should not make a difference. What the local sponsors are worried about more is the activation," said Venky Mysore, Kolkata Knight Riders' chief executive. "When we play in Kolkata, does that help a local sponsor in activating in a big way? To some extent, possibly, but at the end of the day as long as KKR are playing, it is on TV then it is business as usual. For a sponsor there is no change in visibility factor since it is on TV. The only difference is when you play on your home ground there is more buzz. There is no doubt. But difference this time is instead of having the whole tournament played outside, only part of it would be played abroad."

According to a franchise marketing head one of the major concerns of the sponsors was the extent of costs. He said sponsors now expect more value for their money compared to 2009 when the entire IPL was played in South Africa. "Between 2009 and 2014 the difference is the sponsors' value has gone up substantially," the marketing head said. "Five years ago sponsors were not paying too much but now they pay us big sums. So to some extent sponsors will expect some sort of discount in exchange for the tournament being displaced overseas. Like if the sponsor wants to entertain some friends he might ask me to pay part charges of having them flown overseas."

According to him, sponsors are not just limited to the ones seen on players' uniforms and kitbags. There are others such as associate sponsors who will look for interactions with players. "People who have paid big dollars will ask me kuch toh help karo (help us in some way atleast)," the marketing head said.

Mysore said that franchises need to get more creative in helping sponsors activate their brands. "We might end up having to upgrade some of the timelines. If it was a full tournament in India you had seven weeks to spread in terms of sponsor activation," Mysore said. "On the other hand there are going to be only 60 compared to 74 (actually 76) matches last year. So that is a positive. When it was 74 games you did not have too much respite. So in terms of sponsors activates players did not have too many off days. Here there could be. So we will have to be creative."

The marketing head agreed with Mysore. "It is an opportunity to convert this weakness into a strength. I was telling the sponsors that earlier we would get them to watch a match of the franchise. Today I can tell them that you can watch the match abroad and even meet the players which is easier abroad compared to in India. That is because players' movement is restricted and that way they are captive in their hotels and more sponsor activities can be done. There are positives also."

According to the marketing head, the skeptics are wrong when they say the tournament might be played in front of empty grounds, a familiar feature during the majority of the international matches that have been organized in the UAE, the home venue for Pakistan. The presence of Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty, who are co-owners at different franchises can attract a lot of fans not only from the Indian diaspora but also from Pakistan, where these actors have a lot of support.

Asked about the perception that a venue like Sharjah had been vulnerable to free movement of bookies during the match-fixing years in the late 1990s, franchises indicated that the IPL as well the ICC had extended all possible support to erase any doubts. "All the franchises have learnt a lesson from the last year's fiasco and will be extra vigilant irrespective of the venue," a franchise official pointed.

According to a senior BCCI official things had improved a long way and the UAE had worked hard to wash away the stains of the match-fixing years. "The BCCI has not been averse to playing in the UAE," the official said. "Had it been that way, why would we have played two ODIs in Abu Dhabi (in 2006)? Don't forget that the working committee unanimously decided very recently that the BCCI is willing to play a series against Pakistan at a neutral venue. This was decided keeping in mind that the only venue would be the UAE and we were fine with it."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo; Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • jamie on March 16, 2014, 1:11 GMT

    I visit Dubai often in february or april, as that's when the weather is best. Not outrageously hot, very similar (if not cooler that) India. Around 30c, 35c max. This will be no problem. Neither will player/staff security. However I do worry for crowds. Little chunks of cricket fill (english) papers, with the focus mainly on european football. It will be interesting to see how full Sharjah and DSC are.

  • AbdulHameed on March 14, 2014, 2:54 GMT

    The weather in UAE in April is good, in fact it is very much better than some Indian cities at the same period.

  • Android on March 13, 2014, 22:01 GMT

    Each team should select an alternate test playing nation to be a 'home ground' and play one or two games there. That way the whole world will get to experience the IPL first hand. I'm sure they would sell out (or close to) the stadium in each country and it would pay for itself. This would only benefit cricket as a whole. Young Indian players will get some experience in different conditions and increase attention all around the world. The only flaw I can see is that it is coming into winter in New Zealand and Australia and coming out of winter in England at that time... Still I would love to see something like that happen.

  • Ramesh on March 13, 2014, 17:05 GMT

    All those people talking about the weather in UAE during April obviously have not lived there. The summer really kicks in here only by June-July. April in UAE the temperature tends to be between 32-35 deg celsius. In fact much cooler than places like Delhi, Jaipur and less humid than Chennai in April, where the IPL is played every year. The 40-45 deg temperatures start sometime in June and peaks around July- August.

  • Suresh on March 13, 2014, 16:52 GMT

    Cricket in UAE in the Month of April! These guys are out of their minds, its the start of the summer, so hot here in this period, some of the domestic players and probably most of the international players from colder countries will collapse on the ground.

  • Dummy4 on March 13, 2014, 15:06 GMT

    Most readers seem to be forgetting that this is a commercial venture owned and operated by those who invested their money in the franchises. BCCI being the guardian of cricket in the country ensures that it remains a competition in cricket, sets forth common guidelines to provide an even ground for all franchises, and ensure that cricket's laws conventions and ethos are protected (within the profit oriented commercial venture).

    Of course the franchises are all in the entertainment business, cricket happened to be the product line with which they are competing for a return on their investment. Propagation is a worthwhile by-product.

  • Ramya on March 13, 2014, 9:28 GMT

    @soumyas - i think ur wrong mate! IPL is about Indian players and very few foreign nationals. There is no way u wud have seen the entire Pakistan dressing room playing got IPL - even if they were included probably Afridi & Ajmal wud have found a place. So wht u say doesnt make sense!

    Moreover there is a huge Indian population in the UAE who have been deprived of seeing Indian cricketers in the recent times - they wud me more than thrilled to come to the stadiums to watch their heroes perform! Most of these matches will be night matches - which will allow ppl to get back from work and into the stadiums - which is good news for IPL...

  • soumyas on March 13, 2014, 7:58 GMT

    @Rajeshj... of course the success is by the TV, yet the ticket collections of 1-3 crores per match will be a loss to the franchisees. That loss was less had the pakistani players performed in UAE-IPL...

  • Dummy4 on March 13, 2014, 7:04 GMT

    Its is not about the country or pakistani players, The IPL is purly entertain the Indians. Success of IPL in SA by the way of electronic media only, moreover the timing of the match was, the prime time in India. For example the 4.00 pm match was started at 12.00 noon local time @ SA. Pls think that who will be at the ground at that time. Still it was a success. The same way this time also it will be a great success, even the match will be played in Japan or Brazil.

  • Android on March 13, 2014, 7:04 GMT

    It doesn't matter who plays! The brand IPL is good enough to attract crowds! As far as Pakistan's participation is concerned, It's diplomatic problem. You may end up loosing local fans while trying to get Pakistani fans. No one will risk that!

  • No featured comments at the moment.