Is the IPL jinxed this year? Barely had the COVID cloud lifted from the country’s premier domestic tournament and there was an air of excitement and anticipation around it’s grand launch on September 19 that the showpiece event has been thrust into a fresh crisis.
Vivo, the Chinese mobile phone maker, has decided to pull out of this year’s IPL, leaving the tournament without a title sponsor. With the schedule cleared and preparations already underway to host the tournament in the UAE, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has to now race against time and find a new title sponsor before the franchises head out to the desert lands.
There were speculations around the title sponsorship deal before the Governing Council met to clear the IPL schedule. There was a sense that the BCCI might even be willing to junk the deal, worth thousands of crores, citing the recent border clash between Indian and Chinese troops. The skirmish left many soldiers on both sides dead and even led to calls for boycott of Chinese goods in India.
However, the Governing Council meeting on Sunday decided to retain Vivo as title sponsor for the tournament this year.
But in a surprise move, the Chinese mobile phone manufacturer announced on Tuesday that it won’t be the IPL title sponsor this year. The apparent trigger was the huge backlash on social media after the Chinese company was retained as the premier funder of the event.
Speaking to news agency PTI on Sunday, a Governing Council member said, “All I can say is that all our sponsors are with us. Hopefully, you can read between the lines.”
As part of the deal inked by Vivo India, the Chinese mobile maker’s Indian subsidiary, and the BCCI, the former was to be the title sponsor of the event for five years at a cost of ₹2199 crores. It had been paying the BCCI around ₹440 crores per year after winning the title bid.
It turns out that while Vivo has decided to dissociate itself from this year’s IPL, its future engagement as title sponsor of the event will be decided by the BCCI next year.
Exit will prevent public ire
However, while Vivo’s exit will save the BCCI from drawing public ire over its move to retain the Chinese firm as title sponsor, it faces the onerous task of tying up with a new sponsor at the earliest. Considering that the COVID-19 pandemic has left the economy in tatters, not many companies might be willing to come on board at this time. And, 45 days are all they have to sew up a fresh title sponsorship deal.
While a tenuous peace currently prevails at Galwan Valley in Ladakh, the scene of the clash, the troops on both sides are still in the process of negotiating terms of complete de-escalation.
Even as Vivo’s exit call caught many off-guard, some media reports quoted sources as saying that the Chinese phone maker and the BCCI may have agreed on a one-year pullout as title sponsor so that both could escape flak from the Indian public.
So, if that is the case, one would assume that the BCCI has already identified a new title sponsor and that a deal could be in the offing anytime soon.
As things stand, the priority for all stakeholders is to ensure that the tournament goes ahead as planned. Cricket fans across the world have been literally starved of live action since all sporting activities went into lockdown. For their sake, it’s imperative that the tournament stays on schedule and isn’t shelved.
Out of the COVID shadow, the IPL, one hopes, would also find a new sponsor soon.