The BCCI is gearing up for a lengthy and tricky struggle to keep the IPL, its cash cow, on track after the Lodha committee report effectively stripped it of two teams. It has convened an IPL governing council meeting in Mumbai on July 19 to plan the road ahead; inviting fresh franchise bids is being seen as one option to restore the league to its eight-team format by next season.
Soon after the 59-page order was handed to the BCCI, top officials went into a huddle with the legal team. Their advice was that, instead of looking for ways to challenge the order, the BCCI would be better suited to working out the roadmap.
The BCCI's plan to invite fresh bids to replace the two suspended teams, including the bidding procedure and the cities that can be bid for, is likely to be worked out at Sunday's governing council meeting. First, though, they will have to see if Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals seek a review of the Lodha committee verdict by the Supreme Court. If the review petition is not admitted, the BCCI will have plenty of time in hand to float tenders for inviting bids for new teams.
Most BCCI members are convinced that a six-team IPL will not work commercially, both for the broadcaster and the BCCI. The only viable option to meet the broadcaster's demands in a six-team format is to make each team play against each other four times, which, it is believed, will take much of the excitement out of the league. The absence of two teams would also mean their players missing out on the IPL.
Inviting fresh bids will not, however, be a simple process. The BCCI will have to exclude Chennai and Jaipur as franchise venues and, though there is a plethora of other cities having the requisite infrastructure to host an IPL team, the two-year duration is likely to dampen investor interest. One option that will be explored is to look at longer-term tenders.
The BCCI will have to consider two other issues if it gets new franchises: the fate of the players from Super Kings and Royals and the scenario post IPL 2017, when the suspension is lifted.
The players' issue, according to a BCCI insider, isn't a serious concern since all IPL player agreements are one-year agreements. As a result, all the players from the two teams can be part of the auction pool; the BCCI can, if required, devise a mechanism similar to the one in 2011 when Pune and Kochi franchises were allowed to sign a few players ahead of the auction.
As for the other contentious point, the BCCI hierarchy is convinced that they can have a nine- or ten-team IPL 2018 onwards. Under the franchise agreement, according to another BCCI insider, a fresh auction is supposed to take place ahead of the 2018 edition so if Chennai Super Kings or Rajasthan Royals or both return to the fold in 2018, it will be a level playing field for everyone.
The BCCI members are also not sure on whether the Rajasthan Royals can sustain themselves without being a part of the IPL. While Super Kings is a subsidiary of India Cements and can hold on to the team for two years, Rajasthan Royals is the primary business of the parent company. It would be very difficult for them to sustain themselves for two years without any source of income.