Ever since its inception in 2008, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been ridden with controversies. Be it the former Commissioner Lalit Modi's alleged involvement in money laundering or the inappropriate ways used by him to award franchise licenses to some of the new teams, IPL has been one of the most talked about T20 cricket leagues in the world but mostly for all the wrong reasons. The league, once valued by brand valuation company Brand Finance at $4.31 billion, has been constantly getting eroded with a new controversy hitting the sports league almost every year.
The latest blow is of course the verdict of the Justice Lodha committee (appointed by the Supreme Court), suspending two of the most successful franchises of the league, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals for two years on charges of betting and match-fixing. The co-owners of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra respectively, have been banned from cricket for life.
This of course is a huge blow to the credibility of the league and the value of brand IPL claim experts, has eroded by over 60 per cent. Most of the sponsors associated with the sport must be already in close-door meetings debating whether they should continue supporting the league or not.
However, brand specialists and cricket experts feel the Supreme Court ruling could well be the first step to bring back transparency and trust into the sport. "The ruling on the face of it will surely seem to have a negative impact on IPL, but I look at it as the first positive move to cleanse the entire system," remarks the former MD of Brand Finance, Unni Krishnan, who now runs a long-term value governance company, Longbrands.
Shailendra Singh, Joint Managing Director, Percept Holdings, says that T20 as a sport will survive, but the corrupt administration will finally fall apart. "Fans want live entertainment and the sport will win. However, I am hoping that the constitution of BCCI that allows all kinds of unfair practices would be re-written."
In fact, Singh says that with the value of IPL being badly eroded, this could be a golden opportunity for sponsors to re-negotiate their deals with the franchises. Gone will be the days of paying unrealistic amounts for a brand to be on the front of the jersey of an IPL player.
While IPL has a plethora of brands on board, one can't ignore the fact that most of them have signed short-term deals spanning for a year or at the most two years. "The controversies surrounding IPL have always been a concern for sponsors. While the tournament did get them eyeballs, most of them were sceptical about associating with a controversial property. Therefore, a bulk of the sponsors preferred doing short-term tactical deals," says Hitesh Gossain, Founder, Onspon, an online platform that facilitates sponsorship deals.
Gossain says that the suspension of the two franchises and the move towards cleansing the property may actually see more sponsors wanting to sign long term deals with the franchises.
As Charu Sharma, MD, Mashal Sports puts it, this will not be end of game for IPL, but there will be a major correction in the value of the property. "The IPL will become a far more affordable and realistic property, " he says.