Famous Indian Badminton League and Its Role

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The IBL was a first of its kind initiative of the Badminton Association of India. Originally proposed by the Maharashtra Badminton Association, the League was commercially managed by a sports management company, Sporty Solutionz Private Limited. The idea was to make Poona (the original name for badminton, as introduced by the British officers based in Pune) a household phenomenon through a format, which was exciting and had the ability to keep viewers on the edge of their seats, whether in the stadia or at home. The format of the league was therefore based on the Sundirman Cup format, with the only difference of a men’s singles match instead of a women’s doubles match .

The success of Saina Nehwal, Jwala Gutta, Ashwani Ponnappa and Parupalli Kashyap, coupled with the guidance of Pullela Gopichand finally culminated into the Indian Badminton League 2013, the brand value of which was valued at USD 1mn, the richest badminton league in the world. The cost of the League was pegged at around 32 crores, which seemed modest as compared to its cricketing counterpart, but turned out to be very high for the game of badminton to support in the first year. The organizers were prepared for a no loss no profit in the first season of the league.

So, as is the case in any commercial exercise in sports, IBL was heavily dependent on advertising and sale of rights to recover the costs and make profits. Broadly, the revenues came from franchise fees, TV rights sale, on ground advertising and ticket sale etc. for the central pool. Similarly, the individual franchisees also had the right to monetize various advertising avenues in their respective home venues as well through apparel partnerships, equipment partnerships and on ground advertisings.

Licensing was in fact the single most important revenue stream for both the organizers and the franchisees. TV rights, radio partners, VAS operators were among the top sources of funding that supported the League. However, in spite of associating with the biggest names in the business, the revenues remained modest as the profile of the sport was such that the advertisers were wary of committing big monies without testing waters.

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Sporting events in India and Sports Associations often suffer from over commitment and underperformance. These, coupled with an overall slump in the economy, meant that the projections regarding the revenues were underachieved leading to the organizers having to pump in additional monies to keep the league afloat. The Badminton Association of India and its political masters, allegedly, often interfered with the operation of the league, lading to rather unwieldy situations

While the IBL was a runaway success in its first year, ramping up impressive numbers on television and viewers appreciating the format to a great extent, it was not without issues from an operational standpoint. Some of the issues that surrounded the IBL . The venue agreements were not in place before assigning venue and no physical inspection of the same were done with regards to operational needs. This led to the organizers allegedly spending huge sums at the last minute to meet the requirements.

There was a lack of staff in the central team who could take ownership of the functional areas i.e. ticketing, accreditation, signage, travel etc. that led to a lot of chaos in the end. The local associations at the venue failed to lend any form of support, which further added to the problems. The appointed agency, Adfactors, was allegedly not proactive and lacked skill to be able to handle the media in the right manner. Media persons were permitted to enter the venue at any time and wander around the venue, often disturbing the players who were trying to focus during the practice sessions.

A lot of issues arose through the event with regard to VIP tickets and seating areas. In some cases, last minute temporary seating had to be organized which proved to be a costly affair. This could have been prevented if velar communication had been made in advance about the number of seats required for the VIP’s. A couple of issues were faced with the National Federation in terms of wanting additional tickers or accreditation for their members. This was made evident in Delhi, where they requested 100 accreditations to be made. They further added to the issue of VIP seating by making their own VIP passes as the organizers were absolutely unaware of how many such passes were made. Some members of the BAI allegedly assumed privileges that were not bestowed upon them. There needs to be certain guideline in place for acceptable behaviors by those attending the event.

The majority of the State Associations were allegedly of little or no assistance during the event. Instead of providing assistance, they made matters extremely difficult for the venue of managers. The money received by the state associations was not pre fixed by the organizers and unreasonable amounts were send to the associations, who in some cases had misused the funds provided. Like the BAI, the State Associations, too, provided passes to their own members, which led to lesses tickets being sold to the general public.

There were complaints received about the distance of hotels from venues, which in particular led to further exhaustion of players. As seen from the above with the national and state bodies demanding for unreasonable amount of accreditations, the accreditation system became null and void when everyone had accreditations. The dissemination of information to franchisees was fairly reported to be unprofessional. There was no franchise meeting that was held before the commencement of the event, to explain them the deliverables

It was alleged that there was no itemized budget that was put in place before the start of the league, neither was any planning or research done on the kind of expenses involved in the organization of the league. It was an area that was greatly lacking within the event. Regular meeting were not in place, a lot of information was withheld, which further alienated people and created an atmosphere of distrust.  

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