Eight years after the BCCI first tried a similar expansion in 2011 and withdrew within the next two years owing to multiple controversies, a blueprint is getting ready again, thanks to the league’s ambitious stakeholders.
“The plan is ready. Expansion is a certainty. What needs to be worked out is the tender process and how to go about it. Expect things to fall in place soon, certainly before the next IPL edition,” sources familiar with developments told TOI.
The owners and executives from the IPL ecosystem got together in London this weekend to discuss the league and concluded that IPL would benefit from the introduction of two new franchises in 2020, making them part of the playing mechanism in 2021.
“There’s space for it and it’s a natural progression. The IPL is at a juncture right now where it will need to expand for multiple reasons — consumption is top-most. Expect digital revenues to triple in the next rights season. With Tests and ODI championships’ cycles falling in place, the international calendar will be far more regularised,” said those tracking the industry.
BCCI CEO Rahul Johri, who is in London, confirmed to TOI that a meeting was held between owners of the IPL franchises and other stakeholders. However, he did not elaborate on the details.
Star India head, Uday Shankar, who had shelled out a massive Rs 16,347 crore for five-year IPL rights in 2017, could not be reached but sources said he’s not averse to the idea of expansion.
The gigantic one lakh-plus capacity stadium at Motera, Ahmedabad, is finally ready, and the new infrastructure will soon raise its hand to be counted as the best in the country and one of the best around the world.
The Adani Group, after an unsuccessful attempt in 2010 to procure the Ahmedabad franchise, is leant to be back in the fray.
The Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) stadium, on the outskirts of Pune had been left without a franchise since October 2013 when the BCCI dissolved Sahara Pune Warriors. The city of Pune was back in IPL action for two years – in 2016-17 – when the Sanjeev Goenka-led RPG Group invested in a franchise for two years and was keen to have a longer association with the league.
The Goenkas from Kolkata – who own a franchise in the Indian Super League (ISL) – have been eager to be part of the IPL ecosystem once again, having twice failed in talks with Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals over the last two years.
The Tatas, otherwise conservative as a business group, seem to be eager for an image makeover. Having recently entered the Indian Super League (ISL) with a franchise in Jameshedpur, the Ratan Tata-led group “is not averse” to the idea of having an IPL franchise in Jharkhand – home to Tata Steel. Jamshedpur last hosted a One-Day International in 2006 and has the space to revamp itself while Ranchi, the capital of the state from where MS Dhoni comes, has a state-of-the-art infrastructure in place for some time now.
Then, a consortium of businessmen who have interests in Uttar Pradesh and have been eyeing Lucknow and Kanpur, enjoy the backing of a former BCCI administrator. Two equity bankers in the United Kingdom have been in talks with IPL franchises for quite some time now to pick stakes and one franchise from the north is already in last round talks with a UK-based banker for a stake sale.
Then, of course, there’s Kochi Tuskers — the sacked IPL franchise that went on to win a multi-crore arbitration case against the BCCI, and want to return to the fold once again.