When Indian Premier League’s (IPL) former commissioner Lalit Modi had first told Manoj Badale that he was looking to raise $100 million from the franchise auction of a cricket league that no one had yet heard of, Badale had a good laugh. Born in India and brought up in England, he was a founding partner of venture builders Blenheim Chalcot, and had an inherent love for cricket— earlier, along with co-founder Charles Mindenhall he had built a company to acquire the commercial rights to run English county Leicestershire. While that faced a few hitches, Badale turned his focus to investing in the game in the sub-continent.
But would Modi’s league live up to his lofty ambitions? Thirteen years on, the answer is a no-brainer (even as IPL’s architect has since been banned for life over financial irregularities and is in exile in London). From its initial TV rights of $1 billion, forked out by Sony Sports for a period of 10 years, IPL broadcast rights now command a whopping $2.5 billion for five years (acquired by Star Sports in 2018).
What makes IPL, one of the few profitable sporting leagues in the world, such an attractive proposition? Badale, the lead owner of the franchise Rajasthan Royals (RR), explores in a book, A New Innings, co-authored with acclaimed cricket journalist Simon Hughes. Initially meant to document the “roller-coaster ride of the Rajasthan Royals”, the book evolved into a discussion on the business and future of cricket. “And then it was completely unreadable,” says Badale, “at which point Simon, a very old friend, decided to jump in.”
“I thought this was the kernel of a very good story. But it needs a story to make it readable and interesting to a wider public,” says Hughes, an award-winning sportswriter. In an interview to Forbes India, he and Badale give us a peek into their insights. Edited excerpts:
Q what are the top three reasons why the IPL has turned out to be so successful?
Manoj Badale: A focus on creating a product that had media rights and entertainment at the centre of its design; a league format that ensured as much a level-playing field as possible [with player salary caps for each franchise ensuring a richer franchise didn’t pick up all the top players]; and a narrative in a production that has as wide an audience appeal as possible, taking it beyond just the cricket fan.
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