Rajeev Shukla, Chairman of the Indian Premier League (IPL), has ensured immense success of the league under his tenure. He has formerly served the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for nine years. Given his immense experience and vast knowledge of cricket, it was only natural that he be chosen to helm a cricketing league as prestigious as the IPL where has been Chairman for six years now. In an exclusive interview, Rajeev Shukla tells us how the love for cricket in India has marketers eyeing the IPL. Excerpts:
How would you explain the phenomenal success of IPL over the years?
The entire credit for IPL's wonderful success goes to the BCCI. It is such a big organisation that it has gained prominence among all cricket playing nations. We got the support of cricketing boards of various countries who made their best players available for IPL. Although it is the BCCIâs domestic league, we still got worldwide support.
Apart from this, we conceived the model to become a world-class international league. For this, we hired the services of the IMG. They roped in experts who had extensive experience in managing various leagues across the world and were also well-versed with the English Premier League. Half of the credit goes to the franchises who did their level best. For two years, there were 10 franchises. They bled, they supported, and boosted the morale of all the players.
How did IPL emerge as one of the biggest marketing platforms?
If it attracts eyeballs, then market players will definitely take an interest in it. IPL is telecast in 182 countries. Most of these are non-cricket playing nations, but people there still watch IPL because of the excitement, the quality of the game, and the players who participate. After football, I think cricket is the biggest league. Obviously, marketers will take huge interest in it. Also, if you see, the turnout is massive even when the game is played outside India, for instance in places like South Africa, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. All the stadiums are packed. All of this is hugely attractive for marketers. In fact, the impact of IPL is such that most Bollywood producers do not release their films in the IPL season fearing a low turnout in theatres.
This year IPL media rights witnessed intense price wars. What does that mean for Indian sports and viewership?
In India, cricket is doing really well. If you see the ICC ranking, most of the Indian cricket players are at the top. If you look at cricket in India, it is played in three formats - the test match, T20, and the ODI, and it is doing well across all the formats. According to a KPMG study, out of every 100 people, 92 watch cricket. The frequency of other sports being watched is just 8 per cent in India. It is a significant study that caught our attention.
There have been a number of controversies around the IPL in the past. As the Chairman, did it bother you to see such a big brand being at the receiving end of such allegations?
As cricket is hugely popular, it attracts media attention. Each and every aspect of cricket is being covered, including the hairstyles and clothes of players. In the past, there were some controversies and some allegations were levelled, but the BCCI dealt with those with a firm hand. They took the legal route and whatever severe action had to be taken, they took that. For IPL too, we take special care of it. Apart from the anti-corruption agency of the ICC, we also engage the anti-corruption agency of the BCCI. We are definitely very strict about it and if anyone is found guilty, life ban is imposed on them.
Will IPL make the long format game irrelevant soon?
Our idea is not to curb any other format of cricket. That is why the BCCI is giving a special emphasis on test cricket. In every series, we are keeping the test matches. Surprisingly, we have noticed that in metropolitan cities, nobody is interested in watching test matches. That is why we are taking the test cricket to Tier II and Tier III towns, as people there are still crazy about it. So, our job is to take cricket to each and every corner of the country.
What is your vision for IPL over the next five years?
IPL is growing and will continue to do so. People who thought that the IPL exists because of them have been proven wrong. IPL is sustaining itself. This is my sixth year as Chairman of IPL and I have noticed that this is one brand that grabs more eyeballs with each passing year. The wealth, success, broadcasting rights and other sponsors rights is increasing every year. I think it is doing really well and in the next five years, IPL will be as powerful as FIFA.
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