Doubts continue to shroud the upcoming season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) as the Sports Ministry of India has advised all the national sports federations, including the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), to follow to the Health Ministry’s guidelines on barring all “public gatherings” in an attempt to contain the global COVID pandemic.
The directive does not restrict sporting events from taking place for as long as they can “ensure that no public gathering takes place in any sporting event.” India recorded 60 positive cases at the time of writing. “In the event the sporting event cannot be avoided, the same could be done without allowing gathering of people, including spectators,” read an order from the sports ministry.
Earlier this week, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that “discussion” over IPL postponement is underway following the then outbreak, now a pandemic. “There is always a danger of spread (of contagious diseases) when people gather in large numbers. Such events can always be organized later. So discussion is on whether to postpone the IPL,” Tope told reporters
The IPL governing body is yet to comment on the new directive, but they called a meeting this weekend to check their options regarding the matter. “There have been conflicting advisories from various quarters, so on Saturday, we will sit down with all the stakeholders and take a holistic approach for deciding the future course of action,” BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal told
Prior to this directive, shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, India’s the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare ordered “all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International Organizations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15th April 2020.” About five-dozen overseas players contracted for the tournament.
A senior Board told a news portal that “the present scenario is a huge challenge for the BCCI-IPL” and that they have “no control over these circumstances.” He also explained that “in such situations, the BCCI would be in regular touch with the concerned departments to take the best possible course of action in the interest of the game, the players, the fans and the league.”
There could be two possible things to be decided for the IPL this season — having matches behind closed doors or postponing the league till the middle of April. IPL, a two month league set to commence in March 29, produces over 40,000 spectators in each match. “It could be TV-only as it is a medical emergency and we can do nothing about that.” a senior BCCI official told news portal. It means loss.
“It’s obviously not an ideal option to keep the crowd away from our commercial point of view. It affects revenues. But if that’s an option they are pondering, then we will weigh it that way. We would rather play than not have a tournament at all,” senior franchise official said. According to sports industry experts, IPL is at risk of taking a financial hit of around ₹10,000 crore.
“Around 35% of IPL talent (players) and production crew comes from other countries. With the new visa curbs, their entry might get restricted until they get work visas. All the safety and execution related concerns are valid as there are multiple stakeholders involved with obvious cost implications,” said Vinit Karnik, business head, ESP Properties, GroupM.
This cash-rich T20 league is said to generate more than $11 billion a year to the Indian economy. Major sponsor Vivo paid $330 million for 2018-2022 deal. Recently, the BCCI slashed the prize money for winners by half, making it Rs 10 cr ($1.36m) this season as a part of the governing body’s cost-cutting measure. The increase that franchises pay to state cricket associations for hosting matches also went up.
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