Golfer Shiv Kapur makes no bones about two things: that cricket, and not golf, is his first love and that he wants to make golf a “sexy” sport. Perhaps that’s why the 30-year-old has brought the two together with a T20 version of golf: the Golf Premier League (GPL).
Along with his friend and business partner, Neeraj Sareen, Kapur is gearing up to launch GPL in the first week of February. “The idea is to make golf a more appealing sport and add elements which make it more watchable,” he says.
Kapur isn’t entirely a business novice. Before he turned pro in 2004, he studied business management at Purdue University. The idea of starting an IPL-style golf tournament, he says, came up last year. But professional commitments kept him from devoting much time to it. This time, along with Sareen who runs a sports management and event company called Sports Mantra, he is ready to give it a shot.
GPL’s format is similar to that of IPL. There are eight city-based teams, there will be player auctions, and there will be all the razzmatazz that IPL first bought to a sporting event. “Golf is seen as an older man’s game and we wanted to spice it up,” says Kapur. So, there are 14 holes instead of the regular 18 holes in the tournament. The shot clock, which allows a golfer 40 seconds to take a shot, will now allow him 30 seconds and the event will be played during day and night.
“We don’t want it to become a Mickey Mouse event so we are retaining the sanctity of the sport as well,” Kapur says and then with a grin admits to having plagiarised from IPL. “Not just IPL, but also some facets from America’s basketball league (NBA) and the football league (NFL),” he says.
Kapur is confident that the format will be a hit with the players. Already India’s top players like Gaganjeet Bhullar, Himmat Rai, Anirban Lahiri and Rahil Khan have agreed to participate in the event. Golfers from all over the world, including Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke and Denis Campbell, too will be participating. Each team will have four players — two Indians, one from Europe and one from other parts of Asia.
Six out of the eight franchisees have already been sold for a three-year duration. These are Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Mumbai. One international franchise for Colombo — which is owned by Sri Lankan cricket captain Mahela Jayawardene — has also been sold. Kapur realises that other sports, including hockey, have also tried to imitate the IPL model, but without success. He admits that for the first two years, they won’t be making much — if at all any — money from the event. “In the first two years we want to test the waters. We are confident that we will get more sponsors on board.”
The prize money is Rs 1.14 crore for the event that will be played across three days, from February 7-10 at Aamby Valley in Pune.
GPL has Aamby Valley, Ballantines among its principal sponsors and a few other associate sponsors. A broadcast sponsor is on board as well but Kapur says the name of the channel will be divulged closer to the auction date — January 18.
Golf, he adds, is the only sport where spends have increased year on year in the last five years. “Our aim by 2015 is to have someone like Tiger Woods be a part of GPL.”