It had to weather some challenges this time, but the second edition of the Tamil Nadu Badminton League has taken off. To be held over nine days, the league will end next Sunday.
To Aditya Elango, the moving force behind the TNBL, the first three days of the event have looked promising. “The response has been decent… the crowd is slowly increasing each day,” says Elango. “We didn’t really spend on promotions, but we have invited the clubs. Hopefully, it will get better.”
Badminton might be a fast-growing sport, but the challenges of attracting sponsors still remains. Despite a successful first edition, Elango says it hasn’t been easy to raise money for the second edition. “It was very difficult to get sponsors this time,” says Elango, of the TNBL, which was the country’s third IPL-style league after Maharashtra and Karnataka. “There’s a lot more awareness now, and it will take a couple of years to get set. We managed to rope in a few sponsors… although there is hype around badminton, it is not that much in Chennai, because there are no star players from here. Badminton is a loved sport, but it is not yet marketable. But I do think the quality of games this year will be better than the previous year.”
The TNBL will see six teams – the same number as last year, but two new teams have come in. Chennai Singams, Dazzle Force, Erode Eagles and Covai Panthers continue their association with the league into its second year, while Delta Warriors and Temple City Knights have made way for Jhawer Smashers and Ed6 Skill Angels. The main attraction of the league will be its international cast: Yuhan Tan (Belgium), Ekiring Edwin (Uganda), and among the Indians, Chetan Anand and Sanave Thomas.
Although players like Ekiring and Yuhan aren’t top-draw, they have ensured an international flavour to the event. Elango says the two were keen to be part of the league. “I got in touch with them through my international contacts. They were interested in taking part. The Chennai crowd is not used to this level of badminton. They have also been very supportive of the local players, who are learning a lot by being part of the team.”
Winners will take home a purse of Rs 2.5 lakh. Each team would be spending around Rs 7 lakh, inclusive of tournament fee (Rs 2 lakh) and auction fee (between Rs 2 and 4.5 lakh) and kits for players. The overall budget for the league has been set at around Rs 45 to 50 lakh. Tamil Nadu player V Velavan has attracted the highest bid of Rs 1.5 lakh. The matches are being held at JJ Indoor Stadium, Kilpauk.
“I’ve been at this since January,” says Elango, who founded a firm called Sunsportz for the league. “I’ve been hunting for sponsors, event managers, players… it’s been hard work for the last four months. People are still not convinced about the magnitude of the tournament. But we have managed to get Li-Ning as equipment sponsors.”
The TN league was the first in the country to innovate by involving foreign players and holding the finals in a mall; by keeping it going, Elango hopes to eventually create a turnaround in Chennai’s badminton scene.