Coronavirus pandemic

After Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the Emirates Cricket Board has offered to host the suspended edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE is no stranger to hosting the IPL, having arranged 20 matches in 2014 to avoid date clashes with the general elections in India. However, it’s not a proposal the Indian board (BCCI) is expected to jump upon at this stage.

“The UAE has offered to host the IPL if we want them to. But right now when there is no international travel, there is no question of taking a call on that,” said BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal.

The BCCI hasn’t given up hope of rescheduling the IPL and keeping it in India should the coronavirus be contained. BCCI officials say they have been looking at identifying bio-secure stadiums at home, but India currently has far too many virus affected red zones.

In a scenario where the government is unable to lift the curbs on sporting events, would the BCCI be open to move the IPL to a foreign land, like they had done in 2009 (South Africa) and in 2014? Dhumal was non-committal. “The health and security of players and all participants is our priority. At the moment, the entire world travel has come to a standstill, so there is nothing we can decide at this stage,” he said.

Taking the IPL abroad is a contingency that has been discussed with franchises over informal channels. Even if the IPL is staged in India, closed-door matches look like the best bet. Franchises, in any case, stand to lose out on revenue from gate receipts. Similarly, with social distancing guidelines expected to stay regardless of the venue, maximum leverage for sponsors (like player meet-and-greets) are unlikely. Sri Lanka and UAE being geographically close, TV timings would be a non-issue.

Even an IPL just for TV will protect the broadcast and title rights deals of the BCCI. A regular IPL would have helped BCCI earn around Rs 2500 crore. With player salaries tipping Rs 600 crore, franchises too were expected to make profits of over Rs 150 crore each. With such healthy returns guaranteed, cricket boards volunteering to host the IPL is unsurprising. When the IPL was shifted to South Africa, Cricket South Africa (CSA) made a turnover of $ 11.4 million. The UAE Board charged much less from the BCCI for staging the IPL, but it lifted their profile and helped Dubai become a regular international destination.

Sri Lanka’s cricket board is struggling financially, with no takers for its media rights tender. The staging fees of the IPL and renewed broadcaster interest could have helped them. “We have discussed amongst our committee members the proposal to host the IPL in Sri Lanka. We are in lockdown till May 11. Any further decision will be taken after that,” said SLC secretary Mohan de Silva.

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