By Lalit K. Modi - 6th September, 2012
As the future of the Deccan Chargers remains shrouded in doubt, there was an interesting article in today's edition of the Hindustan Times asking wether the sheen is wearing off the IPL. (You can read the full piece by clicking here)
Unfortunately, my unequivocal answer to that question is; 'yes it is'. But it is not too late to arrest the slide.
The piece in the HT was inspired by the Charger's situation and I am genuinely sad to see their ongoing problems casting yet another cloud over the tournament. As we all know, Kochi's franchise was terminated last year and now, here we are twelve months on and there are headlines suggesting Deccan Chargers might not be able to compete in IPL VI. It is such a shame and should never have needed to happen. As I have said in a comment piece elsewhere in the same newspaper today, (click here) the BCCI and the IPL Governing Council has to act swiftly. There are even rumours of Sahara reducing their cricket interests and that would be another massive body blow if its true.
As for the Deccan Chargers, their owners, Deccan Chronicle Holdings Limited, have been allowed to issue a tender notice in order to find a new buyer who will be obliged to continue with the team in Hyderabad and clear all current liabilities. It is also reported that the BCCI have only given them until Friday before they will issue a tender without a base price. That doesn't show a lot of confidence and if it happens, the suggestion is the franchise could be taken away from Hyderabad and placed elsewhere.
Of course, the BCCI has to deal with the current issue, but the wider problem is focused on cause and effect. In recent times, sponsorship has already been an issue with title sponsor DLF deciding not to renew while tournament marketing has lost its 'fizz'. In 2010, the tournament had a TV rating of 5.51, in 2011 it reduced to 3.51 and this year's event was 3.45 (Figures from TAM Sports) Now, Deccan Chargers are in a mess and perhaps - just perhaps - all of these elements are inter-related?
In the HT article, there is a suggestion that IPL franchises have to increase their "connect" with supporters when the IPL is not active. On the face of it, that looks a massive challenge given that the tournament is only played for 6 weeks of the year, although the CLT20 does provide another window for those who qualify. But in fact, local identity is one of the elements that we regarded as being so important when we conceived the league. The whole model was based on the English Premier League where fanaticism and committed association are part and parcel of the whole mix. Yes, the Premier League has a much, much longer season, but closer ties with local communities and regions is another area where the IPL needs to do much more. It is not, in itself a solution to the whole problem but it is a brick in the wall.
The future participation of the Deccan Chargers or - to put it bluntly - the success in finding an alternative franchise, is critical for the IPL's credibility. The tournament simply cannot afford to lose another team or the revenue from the lost matches, sponsorship and commercial opportunities that could potentially result. The Hindustan Times article has looked at the IPL's basic financial model and on the basis of core figures declares; "there is very little chance of such a model failing." If that is correct - and I believe it is - someone is doing something wrong somewhere....