There's a vitally important period of negotiation ahead for the IPL management team if they're to ensure the tournament isn't starved out of existence as top-level, globally attractive tournament. It's now the time for sponsorship contracts to be renewed and as, I understand it, only two partners have renewed so far - Vodafone and Volkswagen.
Of course, there is time for it to change but it doesn't sound like there is a queue of partners beating a path to the IPL door to ensure their place is secure. That tells me that the sponsors feel they have the upper hand in any negotiation and classically, that would mean there aren't too many potential new sponsors waiting in the wings who can put the pressure on the existing ones. That, in turn suggests the current sponsors may be able to negotiate the value of contracts down, which would be disastrous for the IPL's long term health. In the early days, there WAS a queue. Companies knew the value of the IPL and didn't want to miss the ride.
At the end of IPL5, I wrote that the tournament's Governing Council needed to show some strong leadership. The spot-fixing scandal was obviously an unfortunate one for them to deal with and certainly not a reflection of tournament management but even so, I do wonder, as the new round of sponsorship negotiation begins to roll, wether the negative headlines behind that issue and those of player behaviour have had an impact on the corporate world's view of the IPL?
The IPL management needs to wake up and ensure they are able to bring the confidence back with sponsors. And they need - at a minimum - to double the value. They do have a safety net in place thanks to the long-term broadcasting contract I put in place. That will double the payout to the BCCI from next season but, as per the business plan, all sponsor contracts also need to deliver double the value to the stakeholders. With so many variables and negatives buzzing around, with the IPL/BCCI be able to achieve this?
In May, I reflected upon the fact that the Governing Council was to sit and assess the state of the IPL. I wrote then that the continued focus on innovation and entertainment I had envisaged from the outset, needed to be re-visited. Also, the lack of transparency relating to the auction procedure which, with the benefit of hindsight, was a flawed process, required addressing without delay. Now, we have a situation where the vibes coming from the sponsors are not the best. I happily acknowledge that with corporate giants such as Vodafone and Volkswagen readily renewing, it is not all gloom and doom but it feels like those in charge now have the task of giving the IPL product a kick start to get it going again.
Let me make it absolutely clear that nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see the IPL retain the corporate strength, the sporting excitement and the financial clout I had always envisaged. But for that to happen the BCCI/IPL management now face a challenge to ensure that they garner revenue as per the long-term business plan.
I genuinely hope they do.
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