- Apart from IPL, there are many other franchise-based sports leagues feeding the entertainment to their respective fanbases
- However, compared to IPL, these leagues have been failures as they tried to ape IPL
- Every game has its own demands and that is why their administrators need to devise a separate strategy to popularise their leagues
Franchise sports have been the talk of the town for a decade now. Almost every major game has adapted to this format. These include Cricket, Football, Hockey, and Kabaddi. However, except for IPL, no major league can be called a complete success. On the other hand, there are other sports which are vouching for a franchise base model for their game.
There is a Badminton league in India
India’s victory in Thomas Cup badminton has given rise to a new kind of debate in the country. Surprisingly, not many people knew that like the Indian Premier League (IPL), Indian Super League (ISL) and Hockey India League (IHL), there exists a franchise-based league for Badminton as well.
The league is called Premier Badminton League (PBL). It is known for providing a platform to upcoming players, facilitating a high-quality exchange of thoughts with the established Badminton players of the world. Saina Nehwal and P. V. Sindhu have been some of the renowned names hogging the limelight in the tournament. But the obvious question is why did we not have much information about it?
The answer lies in the amount of limelight these leagues capture. Compared to IPL, these leagues get very lopsided coverage by the media. In many cases, the glamorised grand opening ceremonies also fail to attract TRPs. There is a multitude of reasons for it. Some of them include the way in which they are operated, while in some cases the low level of competence is also a determining factor.
Proper planning is not involved
Before the IPL, there was only one sports league in India. Hockey administrators tried running the Premier Hockey league for 3 years before they were forced to shut it down in 2008, owing to a lack of attraction. But, the onset of IPL opened the floodgates and leagues in various other sports like Football, Kabaddi, Badminton, wrestling and even Hockey started to mushroom. Almost all of them are devised on the lines of IPL. Most of them are based on franchise-based models. Similarly, they are city-based tournaments. Even in terms of money, the sporting federations pitched these tournaments to attract only big business houses.
But, in their quest to monetise the tournament, these sporting federations committed serious blunders and did not recognise that each sport is different. For example, in the Hockey India League, it did not make much sense to make players travel from one city to another for every match. The increased capital expenditure on VIP treatment of players in every other city proved to be too costly for owners, who were expecting a quick return. Initially, they did oblige, but Hockey did not have such large clout which could pull in revenues on the lines of IPL. As a result, the league has not been organised after its 2017 edition. Leagues of other games also suffered a lot and are on the decline.
Inability to draw star players
One of the biggest issues haunting these leagues is perception. They are stuck in a catch-22 conundrum. Because the league is small, big players are not willing to participate, and because these players not participating, the market value of leagues is not able to register a spike. Though, Indian Super League (ISL) has been able to mark an improvement by drawing big players like Robert Carlos, Robert Piers, and Diego Forlan among others. However, they still pale as compared to their global competitors like Ronaldo and Messi. ISL is winning with itself but it is no match for other leagues of its own sport.
A similar fate was waiting for other sports leagues like those of Badminton and Wrestling. In Badminton, the league could not fulfil the rising expectations of viewers. No matter how much people love them, very few would want only P.V Sindhu and Saina Nehwal to become the main face of the tournament for successive years. Similarly, the Pro-Wrestling league could not draw many players out of the group of already popular players like the Phogat sisters, Sakshi Malik, and Bajrang Punia among others.
Lack of market survey
Before investing in the league, neither the sporting federation nor the companies did their proper market surveys. They seem to have held a false notion that just like IPL, their league would become a pan-India hit. But, Cricket and these sports had different dynamics. Wrestling’s popularity is mainly limited to North Indian states like Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, football has made its niche in northeastern states along with West Bengal and Goa. Though its presence in big cities is also an undeniable fact, still its popularity is largely limited to posh areas of metros.
The same holds true for Badminton, Hockey and Kabaddi. They have their spheres of influence, but extending it beyond their established zone proved to be tedious for administrators of their respective leagues.
Key changes needed to revamp leagues
In short, it would suffice to say that most of these leagues were never ready to organise a corporatized league in the first place. But, then again, until someone is ready to burn their hand, they won’t be able to gauze the intensity of the fire. The failure of these leagues may pave the way for their future success.
- These leagues lack a proper directional approach. They need to recognise their consumer base and then strengthen themselves among that segment. Only after that, a broad-based approach towards nationwide expansion needs to be taken.
- To market these sports, the companies owning franchises need to go big and hire at least one star player by spending a large chunk of money. Even if they are able to fetch a popular star in his early international retirement days, it will do enough to pull advertisers and hence money.
- These sports will have to take a giant leap forward. They will have to find a way to nurture and produce a global superstar from inside the country. It could be a second Major Dhyanchand in Hockey or another Sania Mirza in women’s Tennis. But each sport needs to churn out one player from the system who is known outside his/her sphere of influence as well.
There are more sports in India which are waiting for their own leagues. Basketball, Volleyball and some other sports need recognition as well. It’s after a few existing leagues start to compete with IPL, only then other sports should think of organising a league funded by private equity. Meanwhile, the groundwork needs to continue in the background so that when the moment arrives, they should be up for any challenge.