MUMBAI // The Indian cricket board has terminated its contract with IMG, the sports management firm that helped turn the Indian Premier League (IPL) into a US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) business with its mix of 20-over cricket and Bollywood hype. Next year's tournament may be in doubt, as the fallout appears to have split the eight teams down the middle, with half of them supporting the actions of the board and the others issuing statements criticising them.
The owners of Mumbai, Kolkata, Jaipur and Delhi teams have protested against the removal of IMG, claiming in letters to senior cricket board officials that the move would destroy the league's value and dilute its success, according to local media reports. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) told IMG at the end of last week that it would not need its services for next year after a disagreement over payments for the league's second season in South Africa. It was held there at short notice because of security fears after militant attacks in Mumbai.
N Srinivasan, the BCCI secretary, claimed that IMG's fee of about US$10 million (Dh36.7m) was excessive, but IMG's supporters say it played a key role in setting up the inaugural IPL last year and worked on a fee-only basis of 10 per cent of gross revenues. Mukesh Ambani, reputedly India's richest man and owner of the Mumbai Indians, said he was shocked at what he claimed was a unilateral move to remove IMG.
Mr Ambani added it was worrying that the decision was taken without consulting the franchises, according to The Times of India. The newspaper claimed to be in possession of three other similar letters written by Shah Rukh Khan, the Bollywood star who co-owns Kolkata Knight Riders, and the managements of Jaipur and Delhi. These letters, the report said, were addressed to: Shashank Manohar, the BCCI president; Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner; and Sharad Pawar, the former BCCI president.
It is thought that the BCCI is keen for the Indian board to assume the running of the IPL. The matter will now be discussed at an IPL governing council meeting on Wednesday. Neither the board nor Mr Modi were available for comment yesterday. The newspaper report quoted Mr Khan as saying the decision to remove IMG was a matter of concern, indicating the private firm had ensured that the quality of IPL was better than that of the recent ICC World Twenty-20 in England.
Manoj Badale, the Jaipur co-owner, protested against the manner in which the decision was made, the report said, while the Delhi management said they were unaware of any other firm of a similar stature to run the IPL. Mr Khan said the owners had paid huge sums to the IPL for the franchise rights because they believed it was a world-class event. "It's a matter of sincere concern and anxiety that IMG, who have been an integral part of the tournament management and its success so far, have been expelled due to failure of commercial negotiations," the newspaper quoted him as saying in his letter.
"This is evident in the recent ICC World T20 Championships, which took place in England, the delivery of which was nowhere near the quality of the IPL." The eight franchises had bid a total of $723.59m for team ownership rights from the BCCI last year. Unless the matter is resolved, it is likely to be settled in court. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org