The final nail in the Indian Premier League (IPL) coffin is in. Just a few prayers, roses and tears are left. The worst nightmares of cricket's purists have come true. The 'gentleman's game' is no more. With the latest allegations of spot fixing by three players of the Rajasthan Royals team and the surrounding hullabaloo, the IPL has fallen to its lowest level ever.
Controversies and IPL always went together. The bigger the controversy, the better it was for the tournament. But this time, the game itself is being questioned. If viewers feel they are being cheated, there will be no viewers left. And if the viewers disappear, so will the sponsors, the glitz and the glamour.
Pepsi, which bagged the title sponsorship right for five years (2013-17) for Rs 396.8 crore (the company's biggest investment in cricket in India ever) put up a brave front. In an emailed statement, its spokesperson told Business Today: "The matter is under investigation and we are confident that BCCI and the IPL governing council will take appropriate action. We believe in the spirit of fair play in sports and remain committed to the property."
IPL was already battling with problems before the latest spot fixing scam. According to Brand Finance, a firm that specialises in brand valuations, IPL's brand value had fallen from $4.1 billion in 2010 to $3.03 billion in 2013.
"Close to $1 billion worth of IPL's long-term brand value has been destroyed by such controversies and the lack of governance since 2008. The latest spot fixing is another self-inflicted wound in a long list on the IPL ecosystem," says Unni Krishnan, managing director of Brand Finance India.
Sponsors like Puma had already been reducing their presence in the IPL. Hero, a major sponsor in the early years, had pulled out completely. Viewership has been reportedly diminishing. The broadcasters have cut ad rates.
Krishnan feels sponsors who have their own reputations and stakeholder relationships to protect will eventually stay away from the IPL.
DLF, the real estate company and the first title sponsor of IPL, which got the rights in 2008 for about half the sum Pepsi paid this year , must be having a good laugh.
But some hold a contrary view. "I believe this match fixing racket will not affect brand IPL at all. Instead, it becomes part of brand IPL-development role and lore. The viewer of IPL today is as irreverent as the game is. He is not a purist," says Harish Bijoor, a marketing consultant differs.
The lack of good governance and transparency is said to have led to this downfall of India's biggest ever marketing wonder.
"IPL's stewards seem to exhibit classical symptoms of willful blindness. They do not wish to see the writing on the wall. As long as they hold fast to this world view, IPL is doomed to extinguish itself by its own misdeeds," says Krishnan. Point taken.