The formation of the Indian Badminton League with a championship scheduled for next June seems promising

The phenomenal success of Indian Premier League (IPL) has spawned many wannabes and the latest sports association trying to emulate the IPL is the Badminton Association of India (BAI) which recently announced the formation of the Indian Badminton League with Sporty Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

Badminton is now on a new high in the country thanks to the efforts of Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal.

The championship with prize money of 1 million dollars, involves franchises from eight cities including Bangalore. The event is tentatively slated for June 2013. In the first year, six franchises would get into action.

The BAI Secretary Dr. Akhilesh Das Gupta admitted that the IBL draws its inspiration from the IPL. The organisers have named six Indian icon players including Saina Nehwal, P. Kashyap, P.V. Sindhu, Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta. The organisers hope to attract stars from Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Europe. The squads can field four foreign players and the World Badminton Association is expected to provide a window for the IBL in the packed international schedule. Plans are also afoot to rope in Aamir Khan and Deepika Padukone from Bollywood as brand ambassadors.

The players are thrilled and Saina called it a “historic move” and her coach Gopi Chand is quite happy with the development. Though the organisers are gung-ho about the event, there are some major hurdles which they need to cross. First, what kind of foreign player are they going to get and at what price? If they have to get a top-10 player, the base price should match what they are offering Saina, which is $ 50,000.

Finance would be a worry as each franchise has to raise at least Rs. 5 crore. The IPL, besides TV rights, endorsements and sponsors, also generates money from gate collection, which is quite doubtful in badminton, given the small holding capacity of our stadia. The IBL also needs a deft marketing touch. Experts differ in their views on the issue. Thomas Kunnath, who conceived the Karnataka Badminton League, feels IBL, should be a winning proposition. “There are a couple of things that need to be in place. First, they should get badminton gear makers like Yonex and Flypower who look for high visibility in the country and the organizers should persuade them to bring in top players like Lin Dan, Li Ning and Taufik. Second, being an Indian league, the Indian players should get to play their fair share of matches and third, the tournament should have good venues such as the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, which can accommodate at least 10,000 spectators.”

Coach Tom John, however, has his reservations. “I wonder where they are going to find franchises willing to shell out big money. Essentially, this is an Indian tournament and there is no point if you are going to get foreign players at a huge cost and pay a fraction of it to the Indian players.” Considering these factors, one could say that the concept of IBL is still fluid. Former National champion and ex-National coach U. Vimal Kumar adds a note of caution saying, “I don’t know whether it would be a great boost for Indian badminton as it is more of a commercial venture. It could, however, benefit the players financially.”