Adani Groups enters Indian cricket, gets Ahmedabad franchise for women’s IPL for Rs 1,289 cr

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has got richer by Rs 4699.99 crore. Ever since the board rolled out its plan to launch a T20 league for women on the lines of the Indian Premier League, top corporate houses had shown interest in owning the five teams up for grabs. On Wednesday, when the bids in Mumbai, the BCCI was celebrating another big pay day.

The inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) will have five teams based out of Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Lucknow. The tournament is set to take place in March with player auction set for February.

And even before a ball is bowled, the WPL has fetched Rs 5,650.99 crore to the BCCI and its broadcast right (bought by Viacom for Rs 951 crore) already makes it the second highest among T20 leagues, only behind the IPL. Not even Big Bash League, The Hundred or any other domestic T20 league comes close to these numbers.

The Adani Group went all out for the Ahmedabad franchise, by placing a highest bid Rs 1,289 cr. After missing out on owning an IPL franchise when two new teams were introduced in 2022, the, the Adani Sportsline Private Limited have now entered the Indian cricket ecosystem.

The next three highest bids came from IPL franchises who were keen to spread their roots into the women’s game. While Chennai Super Kings, Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants had stayed away from the bidding, the rest showed interest and placed a bid. And among them, Mumbai Indians (Rs 912 cr), Royal Challengers Bangalore (Rs 901 cr), Delhi Capitals (Rs 810 cr) placed the highest and walk away with a franchise. All three have picked the same home base as their men’s team.

The fifth franchise went to Capri Global, who bought the Lucknow franchise for Rs 757 crore. Kolkata placed a bid of Rs 666 crore, which was far off the table. It is understood that the lowest bid on the table came from Rajasthan Royals who bid Rs 180 crore, which is less 1,109 crore less than Adani’s winning bid.

The overall sum of Rs 4,699.99 crore even caught many in the BCCI by surprise. In fact, when the IPL franchises were first sold in 2007, Mumbai Indians was the most expensive franchise at Rs 446 crore. It is not even half of the top three franchises in the WPL.

“Today is a historic day in cricket as the bidding for teams of inaugural WPL broke the records of the inaugural Men’s IPL in 2008! Congratulations to the winners as we garnered Rs 4669.99 Cr in total bid. This marks the beginning of a revolution in women’s cricket and paves the way for a transformative journey ahead not only for our women cricketers but for the entire sports fraternity. The WPL would bring necessary reforms in women’s cricket and would ensure an all-encompassing ecosystem that benefits each and every stakeholder,” BCCI secretary Jay Shah said in a tweet.

Although the WPL is yet to take-off, the huge bids made on the table is also indication of how the corporate houses are not letting go of any chance to be associated with T20 leagues. In 2008, when the BCCI introduced the concept of IPL to India’s leading corporate, they were sceptical about investing in the T20 format. And 15 years later, the landscape has completely changed. The market for the women’s game in India is in many ways similar to what T20 cricket had in 2008. But this time, there has been huge competition as around 30 showed interest to own the franchises.

“These numbers are totally surprising,” N Santhosh, a market analyst, who has been studying the brand IPL for years, told The Indian Express. “If you look at it, on an average it is 1,000 crores per team which is huge. I’m sure brand IPL has had a rub-off effect on the WPL. May be it is on its own. But it would be interesting to see how much returns they make,” he said.

As per the agreement, the revenue sharing model between the BCCI and the franchises is 20:80 for the first five years. Thanks to the Rs 951 broadcast deal, the five franchises will get Rs 25-30 crore per season, but still have to pay the franchisee fee to the BCCI. When the IPL was rolled out, all the franchises suffered losses in the first few years before the likes of Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders broke even earlier than expected.

Having invested such a huge sum in the WPL, an untapped market so far among Indian audience, it is not clear how long the new franchises will take to break even. “Compared to the IPL, these numbers are significantly on the higher side. Given the franchisee and the operational costs, we don’t know how much they will get in return. But this is a more of an investment where the owners see being part of a developing brand will give them some return,” Santosh added.

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