Future murky as Lodha verdict suspends CSK and RR for two years

For the first time since the inaugural player auction in the Pepsi Indian Premier League, Indian skipper MS Dhoni could be up for grabs as Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals have been suspended from the cash-rich cricket league for two years for betting activities of key officials Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra during the 2013 season. 

While there is not much clarity at the moment on the way ahead, experts believe suspension of the teams leaves the players from these two franchises in the common auction pool. 

“The players have not been suspended, only the teams. Logically, it means that these players will go into the auction pool. It will make the next year’s auction very interesting with the likes of Dhoni and (Shane) Watson up for grabs,” says a professional working closely with a team in the IPL.

This leads to the next big question. What happens to Pepsi IPL 9? Those in the know believe that the most commercially viable route will be to auction two new teams. Having a six team tournament would not be feasible since the format demands at least eight teams. Moreover, the commitment between the official broadcaster, Multi Screen Media (MSM) and the BCCI is that of a minimum number of matches per annual instalment of IPL, which can be satisfied only with eight teams.

The broadcaster will suffer a significant revenue loss since the number of matches reducing will means less air time, which means even less commercial air-time. Reduction in the IPL broadcast ad inventory would ideally mean a rise in rates, but given the shaky credibility of the tournament after the verdict, one cannot bank on the demand and supply logic, feel media planners. 

Similarly, the brands that have signed long-term contracts with the tournament will also want value for their money in terms of exposure and returns on investment, which will be significantly diminished if the number of teams (and hence the number of matches) goes down. 

“Apart from the uncertainty about the players’ future and the tournament’s next instalment, this verdict also means a significant impact on the brand confidence in the league. While it continues to be cricket and a mass reach sport etc., the fact remains that two teams, both having won the title at least once, have been suspended. It a stain on the credibility of the IPL, which had been tainted since 2013. While some of the existing teams may just be able to retain sponsors, the new ones, and those at the bottom of the table, will be in trouble for sure,” says a brand manager.

The punishment was handed down by a Supreme Court-appointed three-member committee headed by former CJI R M Lodha which held that the betting activities of the two officials, Meiyappan, considered the face of CSK owners, and Kundra, co-owner of Rajasthan Royals, have brought the game of cricket, BCCI and IPL into disrepute.

The Committee also imposed sanctions including life suspensions for Meiyappan and Kundra from being involved in any cricket matches conducted by BCCI.

The Comnmitte was constituted by the Supreme Court in January this year with its terms of reference being to announce the quantum of punishment against Meiyappan, Kundra and the two franchisees -- India Cements Ltd, owner of CSK and Jaipur IPL, owner of Rajasthan Royals.

(with inputs from PTI)

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