The IPL typically represents media frenzy, glamour and excessive of vices that supersede the sporting domain of the event; the event is taking cricket lovers for a ride as the glitterati topple the sporting paradigm of the game of cricket. IPL is packaged in a way that even those population segments that might not be hardcore cricket fans are glued to their television sets allured by the clamour of celebrities, glamour and the hysteria that goes with it. The money-spinning potboiler that the IPL is, it undoubtedly speaks of a very efficient and hot business model with all the right proportions of the marketing mix embedded in it. But with the largesse comes the cost. And the cost is the game of cricket itself. The unearthing of betting scandals, players’ complicity in spot-fixing, underworld kingpins’ involvement and monetary misappropriation are all turning the premise of what was supposed to be a perfectly innocent game – the game of the gentlemen.

The IPL model follows (or at least was supposed to follow) the EPL, NBA and NFL models. They are all professional sporting events with billions of dollars involved within them. However, the critical point to note here is that they are not primarily business models converted to sporting events. But precisely the opposite! The EPL and NBA are inter-club tournaments where the clubs represent sporting tradition and loads of sporting pedigree. Their sporting heritage speaks volumes of their commitment towards the sports they represent and the same is evidenced within the domain of their respective games and tournaments. The IPL, on the other hand, has become something more than a cricket tournament, but something less than a major world league. It is a new career option for the many hopefuls but no more bears the inherent spirit associated with cricket.

From the very onset, the event has been mired in a spate of scams and controversies. It’s a far cry from the supposed role-models EPL and NBA. On the one hand, where sporting leagues internationally are trying to adopt more of a socio-capitalist model and are increasing their accountability towards the sporting world and society at large by promoting sports and holistic development across the world, the IPL has unfortunately gone the crony way! Obviously, the lack of a free-market structure has given IPL and its stakeholders all the possible avenues to distort the essence of a business model and still stay in the market. What else can better describe this than the ownership pattern of the league? There has always been a link between IPL and BCCI with respect to ownership and management. In the beginning, Lalit Modi served as the Chairman and Commissioner of the Indian Premier League and also was the Vice President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)! Similarly now, Mr. N. Srinivasan, who is the President of BCCI, concurrently is the owner of Chennai Super Kings! Such ownership not only questions the verity and transparency of the system but also allows the promoters to misuse official power and positions. It’s like the Chairman of the Football Association (FA) owning a club in EPL; or David Stern, the Commissioner of NBA, also having management control in USA Basketball, the official basketball association. And with recent reports confirming that BCCI Chief N Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan is being questioned by the police for his alleged spot-fixing role and his deep connection with the now arrested Vindoo Dara Singh, another alleged spot-fixer, this complicity of BCCI in IPL mismanagement has come completely out in the open.  Read More....
Poor Lalit Modi. He went a little too fast with his scam and partied a little too hard in front of public eyes. As per a confidential income tax report, he bought a luxury yacht, a private jet, a fleet of Mercedes S-class cars and what not! All in the last three years! He gave every possible deal to do with IPL to his relatives and family and friends or to people whom he owed money – so that they don’t come behind him. Again, this is as per that report which came out in The Economic Times. More, he took personal stakes in disguise in three of the IPL teams and is supposed to have been himself involved in fixing the outcomes of IPL matches along with a prominent page 3 personality; again according to the same report.

He is linked to Betfair – a UK firm that runs one of the world’s largest betting syndicates on the internet – and is helping it to enter the casino and hospitality business in India! This is what the Income Tax Department scooped out from Lalit Modi’s email box. And all this an unbelievable six months back. But then the government didn’t take any action till Modi in his stupidity tried to publicly challenge Tharoor because Tharoor gate-crashed into Modi's IPL party while he wanted to give that franchise to another big industrial house along with a couple of more film stars! And then Tharoor broke free and brought in the counter allegations, which everyone knew about but was maintaining the conspiracy of silence hoping to join the party at the right time. Of course, a number of government people are already involved!

But this is what you all almost already know by now. This is not what I want to elaborate upon. The bigger issue is something else. This is not something new. It’s something that is happening in India all the time. Ever since Independence, our focus has been to privatise every public good available through unfair means to allow private businessmen to profit, and in the process helping government middlemen make money. Sports in India is a public good. Cricket is a national craze. Then, is it fair to privatise this activity, is the bigger question in hand. Well, truthfully speaking, I am not against privatising sports. Worldwide privatisation of sports has helped nurture and encourage sports at a local level and bring in amazing talent. Case in point is the European football clubs, the British premier leagues. It’s the working class people whose children are the star players today; kids from the streets getting into the various clubs and making it big regularly. Club games and such leagues necessarily promote sports and encourage fresh talent. So privatising sports – especially cricket which Indians are so passionate about – is not a bad idea. And there is hardly any encouragement. But what is wrong is privatising it through a coterie and distributing it amongst themselves. Cricket is nobody’s father’s property. No one has the right to privatize it and distribute it between friends and family. It has to fairly go to the best bidders, because it is guaranteed money and valuations. Readers of this magazine will remember when IPL franchisees were distributed, I had written in this same column that there surely is unfair play. Many people couldn’t have surely afforded the teams on merit. Then, of course, I came to know that people who paid Rs.300 crores for a team never actually paid it. They m u rk y p i t c h had to pay it in a span of ten years at Rs.30 crores every year. That’s only Rs.2.5 crores per month. That too I doubt how many people had to actually pay. For it was decided that all the sponsorship money being earned on IPL would be divided in a particular ratio and distributed amongst the franchise holders. So there is all probability that if the due to the franchisee was Rs.25 crores in a year, he actually only paid Rs. 5 crores the differential! That too divided amongst a few partners per team. So, of course, all of Modi’s friends and family could afford it!
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