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"IPL could be possible, should be played in the country, likelihood of only Indian players high"

AS THE WORLD continues to be punished by the COVID-19 pandemic, many international and global sporting events too have taken a beating. However, as far as India is concerned, there will be no bigger blow than the Indian Premier League (IPL) getting cancelled for the calendar year. Already the IPL has been pushed back and it remains to be seen when the authorities will be able to try and stage the cash-rich cricket tournament.

Several aspects related to the IPL were discussed by senior professionals from the sports industry during the first episode of a webinar series titled '#SportsPostLockdown'. The first episode on 'Sports Behind Closed Doors' was held on Thursday, May 7, with participation from Hemant Dua, former CEO of the IPL franchise Delhi Daredevils, Jose Antonio Cachaza, Managing Director, La Liga India, and Lydia Buthello, Former EVP and Head of Brand Experience & Events, Star India who shared their insights in a session moderated by Thomas Abraham, Co-Founder & Editorial Director, SportzPower.

Speaking on the possibility of the IPL being held later this year, former Delhi Daredevils CEO, Hemant Dua expressed his views saying, “The BCCI will try its best to host the IPL this year. It all depends on whether the World T20 in Australia gets postponed. The whole FTP will change. We will have more clarity on Covid19 by then, and chances are we could see the IPL staged somewhere in September-October.”

There have also been talks of the IPL moving out of India. Countries like the UAE and Sri Lanka have expressed their interest to the BCCI. However, Dua is confident that the event will be played in India only. “Don’t think the IPL will move out of India. It is possible to have 30 days of full IPL with many double-headers. Cricket is a sport where you can have 4-6 pitches on the same ground which will enable several matches to be held at only a couple of venues which will then limit the travel for everyone involved.”

Finally, he also explained the possibility of how the 2020 edition could only feature the Indian players. “Although the overseas players are keen to play the IPL, there is uncertainty about their participation. Australian tourism has already asked their citizens to not travel away from home until December. So, it all remains to be seen. Rajasthan Royals have said how they would be ok with only Indian players and I am sure many more franchises will be fine with that thought. But we will only get more clarity by September-October. There is a lot of money at stake.”

While the resumption of sporting events is being contemplated upon, the other massive issue is going to be on how the authorities deal with the fans. In any sport, it’s the fans who are the biggest stakeholders and without their presence any action remains almost meaningless. Several countries and governing bodies have already come up with interesting suggestions, although only time will tell how they get implemented. 

Speaking on this issue and the challenges that India might face going ahead, Lydia Buthello, former EVP and Head of Brand Experience & Events, Star India explained, “Hosting sporting events in India with the fans is always going to be a challenge. Indian fans are not easy to handle.”

She also elaborated on how branding, fan engagement, and ticketing would have issues. “The brands will get affected without the fans. Many ticketing companies have gone digital thereby reducing their physical presence. They will need to keep innovating and remain on the digital route. Some companies might face turbulence. But I think we will see a new normal going ahead. I believe shifting to technology will help a lot and many companies have shown the way with their online fan engagement. So it's time many more companies look into this space.” 

The #SportsPostLockdown webinar series is being organised jointly by GainAccess Sports & Entertainment and SportzPower, and powered by Brandaid Events. In the pipeline are more webinars focusing on key aspects of the business of sports, including media rights, sponsorships, fan engagement, and grassroots development, among others.

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