Should the government take over the reins of IPL?
BK Ravi: IPL should definitely not be nationalised. There is a committee to look after the IPL and it’s doing a fantastic job. It has gone very well for three years. It’s only now that controversies are coming out in the open and we don’t really know what has happened. But it should be said that the league has been run in a highly professional way all these years. Regarding the allegations, whoever is guilty should be punished. It is going very well as far as cricket and the tournament is concerned. What’s happening in the boardroom is a different thing.
Sumit Rathor: The IPL is a role model. I don’t think cricket has achieved as much as the IPL has done in the last three years. We have seen what a big industry it is, with millions viewing the matches. The whole game is totally transformed now. I would think that the IPL has done a fantastic job. There are so many good players who were unheard of before. They have all got a chance to be recognised. If there is corruption, the guilty should be given the necessary treatment but the league should continue as it is.
Should there be an observer for the IPL?
Sumit Rathor: There could be some kind of an observer or consultant. But that somebody should not interfere with the running of the process.
Chandrashekar: The government should intervene, solve the issues of corruption and let it go. Cricket is an entertaining sport. If there is too much intervention from the government, sponsors will not come in.
Hakimuddin: The government has done nothing of this scale and size for it to be an option. It has never shown that professionalism before, so we don’t really know. We have the SEBI that regulates the stock markets, which has already had their share of issues. The point is you empower SEBI so that the guilty are punished. Make sure the penalties are strong. The way the government can control it is to make sure the taxes are paid. If there has been unfair play, the government can set the tone there. The running of the game should not be affected. The platform is a great one, a benchmark or role model that the other sports look up to. We should set examples for other sports that plan to take up the league system. But it should be transparent and policies should be laid down so that such incidents do not occur.
Thomas Kunnath: My view is a big ‘no’. In cricket, there are two things happening — the technical and business side. The technical side is going on smoothly and new generation players are coming up. The other side is the business and people are putting in money. The relevant issues should be addressed by the income tax authorities and company laws. On the issue of nationalisation, many sports have not been addressed at all. Let them take up that first. Cricket is going on well.
Should money earned by the government be channelised into other sports?
BK Ravi: The BCCI has itself come forward to give money to other sports, out of its profit. The other thing is that if the government takes over, how well will they be able to organise such an event? Will they be able to get sponsors? Sponsors will come only if one is very professional. A lot of money is coming into the game because there is professionalism now. The IPL is equal to the English Premier League. In fact, we are now going ahead of the EPL. What was the government doing till now? This is the third year. What was the IT department doing for the last two years? Have they not checked the records? Is the government, in its budget, distributing money properly to all disciplines? But just distributing money to everyone does not help. In fact, people from the government are in the IPL committee.
Chandrashekar: If one has a team, all details about bank accounts etc., should be available. If they maintain proper rules, corruption will be less. This concept was introduced by the Asian Football Confederation. This is called the commercial entry.
In the AFC, there are guidelines. In India, we are semi-professional. The I-League was introduced 12years back but it is not as big as the IPL because the latter is very professional and commercial. Football should be more professional.
Sumit Rathor: We can’t go to every area. About five areas should be identified – those which have good future and money should be put back into those. There could be a regulatory body to control the money flow to other disciplines. There could be somebody from the government in an advisory role.
Hakimuddin: The BCCI does not owe anyone anything. If they choose to help other sports, it is purely out of their own will. No one can tell them what to do because that is the money they have created. BCCI money is their property, they are accountable for it and they don’t need to develop any other sport. Each sport needs to learn the good things from the BCCI and IPL. Think about how to package your sport and bring it up. Look at it as a step rather than charity. Sponsors will not come forward if it is not professional. In the UK, a lot of money is generated in the lottery system and it is used for the development of sport. Each sport has different economics. Golf started out small but they are doing well for themselves. Today, a lot of youngsters are playing it and the quality is improving. Things are beginning to happen without any government interference. But
the government can interfere when there is cheating and money laundering. Beyond that, cricket and the BCCI have done a great job.
Thomas Kunnath: BCCI says they will promote sports. If they have excess money, let them develop cricket in remote areas. They are not a government body who should divide money and give it to other sports. If they are helping other sports, the government can consider some tax exemption for them.
Should IPL be saved and how?
BK Ravi: See, those who are not in the BCCI are making more noise. Even in the government there could be scams, but that doesn’t mean the government should come down. Yes, the ministers concerned should be pulled up. The same way, if somebody has done something wrong, punish that person but don’t touch the IPL. The IPL is an asset for our country. We have created so much hype around the world and it has its own name. So, instead of spoiling the IPL, one should go all out in saving the product.
Chandrashekhar: It should be saved by adopting better remedies and by taking views from the top brasses. Also, if the IPL is saved and it can generate extra money, then they can also help other sports like football.
Sumit Rathor: We should see what IPL has done for us in the last three years. It has made us see something, which we could never imagine. We should save it, because it has shown that we can generate marketing, money, get recognition from all over the world and get talent. So, I think we have to save it.
Thomas Kunnath: From the peanut seller to one of the richest guys in the world, Mukesh Ambani, everyone is making money. That’s the employment generation and this gets bigger. I think the IPL should be saved, but only after a thorough clean-up of the mess.
Hakimuddin: I think it needs to be saved because it has got all the right elements. But coming to the corrective actions, this is what’s going to be very important. This is where the BCCI needs to set an example. See, it’s always a challenge to set up the right example but yes, the onus this time will be on the BCCI to come out and show the steps being taken to clean up the house and make it transparent. If these steps are taken, then I think the IPL can be saved and it can go a long way in the future.
Why can’t betting be legalised?
Chandrashekhar: Yes, if you can legalise betting, like in Europe, it will help the other sports.
BK Ravi: Now that a lot of betting is going on, I think we should legalise it. But at the same time, if they legalise betting, the government should come up with a policy that the money earned from taxes on betting should be utilised for the development of sports.
Sumit Rathor: I think that right now, the money involved in betting is much more than the actual money that is involved in the game itself. So, if everybody knows that, with proper regulations, betting should be legalised.
Thomas Kunnath: If it is not regularised, match fixing will come in slowly.
Should IPL or BCCI be more answerable to the people since the whole popularity of the game is built on people’s involvement?
Hakimuddin: I don’t really know how but I believe there has to be a pro-active step of reaching out to the people because at the end of the day, sponsors are coming in because people are watching it. So whatever economy we are talking about right from the peanut seller to the business houses, it’s all because of the people. So they need to come out and tell everyone what it’s all about.
Thomas Kunnath: Public confidence will surely come back, may be in a few days or a couple of months. But to retain that confidence, even the franchisees should take up pro-active action by giving back something to the society. Just like Nita Ambani has said that some part of the funds will be going to some charity organisation, even Vijay Mallya should do something for Karnataka. That’ll help restore the people connect and confidence.
What are the lessons other sports can draw from the IPL?
Sumit Rathor: Karnataka has been doing well in golf. Bangalore has produced the Indian Open winner, Muniyappa, who is from a humble background as well as the best amateur golfer this year, Chikka. We’ve produced golfers like Anirban Lahiri and Abhishek Jha. We’ve done things that no other state has been able to do. So how do we take golf to the next level? The only thing is to improve facilities. To improve junior golf, to get more driving ranges, and more sponsors, people have to come forward to support golf.
Hakimuddin: We’ve seen examples – boxing, tennis, and basketball have started similar leagues. These are all spin-offs only because the IPL has set a benchmark. The lessons are that if you don’t have quality and repetition, it becomes difficult to keep people interested. Why’s cricket big? Because they’re playing throughout the year. They’re constantly in the news. The point is if you have a platform that enables talented youngsters to be a part of it and helps them to have a career, that’s going to activate other sports. While an IPL is looking at emulating EPL, every sport has a similar economic model in Europe. The BCCI has shown that you should not depend on someone else – you should take the initiative. The IPL has found the most innovative ways of giving mileage to the sponsor.
Thomas Kunnath: In badminton, we tried something similar three years ago. But Badminton Association of India was not releasing the players. They were not ready to do it. The national association does not need to conduct it – the league can be privatised. Let every sport do the league and sell it. Even kho-kho or kabaddi can be marketed.
BK Ravi: The success of cricket is because of marketing. Other sports should also learn to market themselves. Hockey was our national sport, but today it has been sidelined because they ignored marketing. Those at the helm of affairs should learn to market it better.