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Franchise leagues are here to stay




It is impossible to keep up with the number of professional sports leagues in the country, and yet those engaged in sports continue to produce them.

Indian Premier League, Indian Super League, Premier Kabaddi League, Ultimate Kho Kho League, Premier Badminton League, Prime Volleyball League, Indian National Basketball League, Ultimate Table Tennis League, Pro Wrestling League, Super Boxing League, Super Fight League, Cue Slam. .. the list is endless, and this is just a reference to national leagues in the city.

Cricket alone has a number of state competitions such as the Maharaja Trophy (formerly known as the Karnataka Premier League) or the Tamil Nadu Premier League and so on.

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The reason for this is: the franchise model works, and it does so by giving communities a reason to get involved and foster a sense of camaraderie among those who are around. Perhaps it is easier to associate with a state or a city than to suddenly feel at one with an entire nation.

This is not due to a lack of loyalty to the country in general, there is plenty of room for that sentiment when national teams participate in international events, but when the focus is narrowed and cities are pitted against each other, the public feels a sense of ownership . ‘We’.

Lalit Modi, then vice president of the BCCI and the brainchild of the IPL, had studied this effect by looking at franchise-based leagues in the United States of America and Europe. All he and his merry men had to do was Indianize it a little.

And so Bollywood stars were integrated as owners and ambassadors. There were cheerleaders on board to give the average Indian fan more than he asked for. Cricket stadiums blare music. Pyrotechnics became a norm. VIP boxes were created to spark aspirations in those in the stands, and those in the boxes themselves were made to feel much more important than they could be. Teams were colorful, players more.

The platform, more relevantly, allowed a nobody to become a somebody in minutes. In a land where dreams often turn to dust, this was the road of yellow stones.

“The IPL is designed to attract a whole new generation of sports fans across the country. The dynamic Twenty20 format is designed to attract a young fan base, including women and children,” said Modi during launch. of the IPL.

On April 18, 2008, when Royal Challengers Bangalore faced Kolkata Knight Riders at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, IPL changed the world of cricket. Indian sport also changed that day.

For obvious reasons, no other competition has been as consistently successful or as lucrative as the IPL, valued at around Rs 50,000 crores at present, but competitions in other sports have seen a significant spike in interest from enthusiasts when they were presented in the IPL form.

Take football for example: the I-League, founded in 2007, was the main league in the country, a league that pitted the best clubs in the country against each other, and yet when the All India Football Federation handed out the city module with the Indian Super League in 2014, the I-League fell out of demand.

In addition to being better organized and marketed with intent, in a country where club culture was waning due to bad branding, one club in town was keeping everyone’s eye on the English Premier League bug having affected the demographics bitten. The difference isn’t huge because I-League clubs also represent certain cities (states in some cases), but when franchising a city, a conscious connection was forged.

The chosen strategy is different in the case of Kabaddi and now Kho Kho, as these leagues are aimed at educating the youth about Indigenous sports, giving a largely unstudied ‘small town’ demographic a reason to tune in. All the while adjusting the rules and providing enough visual stimuli to leave the audience wanting more.

Here, recognizability is used to market the sport, and the money coming in through streaming rights, television rights, ticket sales and so on is significantly better than what was before. Therefore, while the organizers can fully enjoy themselves, the lives of the athletes are also improved.

Of course, these leagues force conversations that question the integrity of athletes and their commitment to the national teams, and in some cases these are legitimate concerns. But those who perpetuate this story must also recognize that India as a sports nation would not be in such good health if the sport had not been partially industrialized.

There is every reason to believe that every organized sport in the country will try a franchise-based competition for some time to come. With history as a will, many of these leagues will fail and some will shine. That’s a gamble worth making, because waiting for something to happen organically is no longer an option.




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