There has been plenty of speculation on the Indian Badminton League and how it will influence Indian and world badminton. While India might not be a badminton power yet, the performance of some of its players, and the prospects of an IPL-style league, lend some weight to the possibility that June-July of 2013 might change the face of badminton forever. Ashish Chadha, CEO of Sporty Solutionz, the company in charge of the IBL and Commercial Partner of BAI, is upbeat about the progress so far. Excerpts from an interview:
What has been the progress on the IBL?
The franchisees will be announced on March 1st. The franchisee finalisation is going on. The auction will be on March 24th. The first franchisee meet will be on May 15th. We have yet to finalise the title sponsor. We needed the franchise partners on board first. To be honest, the response is better than what I’d expected. The first and biggest challenge was to set perpetual partners. We’ve got those six partners. Fifty to sixty percent of the work has been taken care of.
Did you commission any research to furnish figures, especially of TV viewership of badminton, which would help in your presentation to sponsors?
There was no pedestal (to work towards); badminton hasn’t seen a huge amount of sponsorship worldwide. We based our presentations (to potential franchises) on concept selling. We’re presenting this as sports entertainment. Every city will have a carnival atmosphere. If our clients want to get TAM (Television Audience Measurement) ratings, they’ll do it themselves. We have an in-house research team for our data.
There are no benchmarks. Over the last three years, badminton has grown. All three broadcasters are interested. We haven’t asked for a formal pitch. We will decide on the broadcaster on March 1st. As far as production goes, our base is covered because we have in-house production capability.
Who are the players we are likely to see in the IBL?
The national association of Malaysia, Indonesia and some in Europe have issued their No-Objection Certificate (NOC) to players. China too has issued its NOC. All the top players will be part of the IBL. There is not a single top player who will not come. With badminton, you only need the approval of the national associations, unlike in other sports where you have to approach every player.
Will the IBL have higher prize money than the leagues of Indonesia and China?
The base price of top players is USD 50,000 – that’s more than the amount they stand to win in Super Series events. The Indonesian league does not offer that kind of money. The China league has good money, but the format is different… the clubs have no permanent foreign players. In the IBL, the team will remain the same for three years; the next auction will be during the third year.
How do you foresee the IBL impacting badminton?
The IPL created a new benchmark in cricket; the IBL can create a new benchmark in badminton. The two sports are different. But the IBL will change the profile of badminton worldwide. Badminton has five or six sponsors now; here we are increasing the pool to 40. Just imagine the impact. We’re getting some (sponsors) who have never invested in badminton. Once they see success, they will turn into sponsors for the BWF (Badminton World Federation) or BAI (Badminton Association of India). The sponsorship kitty will grow.
As far as the impact in India goes, badminton for the first time will be played on a professional level. Potential players will see the sport as a likely career. Then there are associated professions, such as coaches, trainers, management companies, etc.
Will the IBL be telecast worldwide?
The eyeballs are going to be more than in cricket. We’re talking to every broadcaster in South East Asia. Totally, we’re looking at 100 countries. There will be global viewership.