As BCCI gears up to host the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the UAE, the BCCI has finally found a title sponsor for its flagship tournament after Vivo backed out in the backdrop of the border tensions between India and China as calls for boycotting Chinese goods is only increasing every single day. In a relief for the BCCI, Dream11 has bagged the sponsorship of the IPL as it outbid Byju’s and Unacademy. However, the Chinese link, unfortunately, still remains.
Indian fantasy sports start-up, Dream11 has won the bid for the title sponsorship of the IPL after it outbid Byju’s and Unacademy. Subject to Vivo’s return in next year’s IPL, Dream11 made a winning bid for three years with an average of 234 crore per year. Byju’s had bid for Rs 201 crore with Unacademy bidding for Rs 171 crore. Tata Sons didn’t place a final bid after their request of blocking three categories through title rights was rejected by the BCCI. The Tatas didn’t find merit in a single category title rights.
Market observers claimed that Vivo likely won’t return to IPL 2021 and if that happens, Dream11 will continue till 2022. It is important to note that Dream11’s Rs 230 crore bid is 51% of what Vivo was paying the BCCI. Vivo used to pay Rs 440 crore per year and Rs 2,190 crore in total from 2018-2022.
However, the controversy around Chinese sponsorship in IPL refuses to die down as Dream11 also has a Chinese connection. Dream11 has Chinese investment in the company by Tencent, which is one of the world’s most financially valuable companies. The BCCI moved to quash any concerns over Chinese sponsorship as it claimed that Tencent holds less than 10 per cent in Dream11.
PTI quoted a BCCI source as saying, “Dream11 stakeholders, including its founders plus all 400 plus employees, are Indian. “Their Indian investors are Kalaari Capital and Multiples Equity. Even Dream11’s product is available exclusively for use only by Indians. Only a single-digit percentage minority stake is held by Tencent.”
BCCI’s decision to go with Dream11 has already raised eyebrows with many saying BCCI overlooked the Chinese connection. “Considering that the BCCI had stated that the bid amount will not be the only consideration, I wish it had lived up to the expectation of avoiding China-backed companies and gone with one of the other companies such as the Tata Group,” says Harish Thawani, Former Chairman, Nimbus Sport.
Tencent is one of the biggest investors in Dream 11 with an investment of $100 million. Former Vice-President of Star Sports, Anirudh Kalia, added, “China is back in the race through a backdoor entry.”
The BCCI must have heaved a huge sigh of relief as it managed to get a new sponsor in a short span of time. However, the issue of Chinese investment in IPL still remains. Dream 11 will definitely make a neat profit as the viewership of IPL 2020 is expected to create new records in the backdrop of the pandemic and its aftermath. Any potential profit that Dream 11 bags, a part of it, in all likelihood will end up going to Tencent who also has stakes in companies like Ola and Swiggy.