The development has cast a shadow on the world’s richest cricket property, which raked in over Rs 360 crore for the BCCI last year alone, at a time when the much awaited player auction is scheduled in Bangalore for Wednesday. The eight teams that have a collective war chest of Rs 274 crore are expected to battle it out to buy from over 511 players on the block. They have already forked out Rs 205 crore to retain key players – each team was allowed to retain up to five players.
However, the BCCI put up a brave front and said the auctions would go on as planned. “The auction will continue as planned as the committee has not directed to stop it. The betting probe will continue alongside and the law will take its own course,” said BCCI Vice-President Rajeev Shukla, who is also a Union minister and former IPL chairman.
Those closely watching the development say that while the report has pointed fingers at Meiyappan it has asked for further investigations, which the BCCI will use as an opportunity to let the game go on. The three-member committee headed by Mudgal has said it is reasonable to hold that in the event of the tapes under probe being found genuine, not tampered with and the voice in them proved to be Meiyappan’s, “there can be no iota of doubt that Gurunath Meiyappan was indulging in betting in IPL matches”. The report, however, immediately adds that “the allegations of fixing require further investigation”. The committee, which also dealt with allegations of betting and spot fixing against Raj Kundra of Rajashthan Royals, has said these need to be investigated further.
Opinion is divided on whether the move will jeapordise the IPL this year as it had threatened to towards the end of the previous season when allegations of match fixing and betting came to the fore.
Under the rules, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals can attract provisions of the contract termination clause if any franchisee, franchisee group company or any owner acts in any way that has an adverse effect on the reputation of the league, BCCI or the game of cricket.
Chennai Super Kings, for instance, has several sponsors, including Aircel, Reebok and PepsiCo. None of the companies commented on whether they would continue or quit. Says a CEO of a top sports management company, “Going by the way the BCCI has behaved in the past and given that this year’s IPL is already mired in problems of dates and venues, I do not think anything will happen to either team."
Yet most advertisers and corporate houses say despite the scandal having erupted last year, there was no evidence of the IPL losing its commercial edge, except for a minor dip in viewership of the last few matches. “It is the biggest property on TV with the best consistent ratings. Where can you get a better place to advertise, scandal or no scandal,” says a senior executive of a top beverage company.
Advertisers spent a staggering Rs 800-850 crore on IPL on TV alone last year. While IPL sponsors pooled in over Rs 200 crore, with PepsiCo bagging the title sponsorship, the franchisees made about Rs 250 crore from team sponsorship, ticket sales and in-stadia advertising.
Unni Krishnan, India MD of Brand Finance, a brand valuation company in the UK, however, says there will be an impact. "This has been brewing for a long time and it has now been validated. In my view, not only the CSK brand but the IPL brand will come under stress. It will reduce the trust and equity flowing in the system. In my view, this is a body blow to the IPL." A media planner of a top agency says, “With the charges now proven, this will certainly impact the brand equity of CSK. IPL as a whole has suffered an erosion in brand value due to the controversies and this will further dent it."
Lalit Modi, who founded IPL and was its first chairman before he was shunted out, tweeted that CSK should be banned for life. “To bring back credibility, a fresh auction must be held with all players going into the pot. CSK in its current avatar cannot continue. The planned auction needs to be scrapped,” he argued.
NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS
Last year’s IPL season in numbers
* Rs 200 cr
Sponsorship amount, with title sponsor PepsiCo alone coughing up Rs 80 cr
* Rs 800-850 cr
What SET Max made from advertising, up from Rs 650-700 cr the previous year
* Rs 250 cr
Amount garnered by franchises from sponsors and in-stadia advertising
* Rs 15-20 cr
Amount some franchises say they each made from ticket sales
* Rs 400 cr
Players’ earnings, apart from prize money; franchises spent Rs 635 cr on 198 players
* Rs 265.14 cr
Surplus amount the BCCI made from IPL in 2011-12, representing a 29% rise in budgeted surplus and 23% increase in income
* $1.06 bn
Amount paid by SET Max for 10 years of broadcasting rights. It has to pay progressively more from the sixth year onwards