Lalit’s charge against Murdoch lacks logic

The Champions Twenty20 League is in the news for the wrong reasons. The already beleaguered tournament came under sharp focus when former IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi, in a television interview on Tuesday, accused media baron Rupert Murdoch of going after him.

Mr. Modi said Mr. Murdoch was upset with him — Mr. Modi was then an influential figure in the BCCI — since ESPN-Star’s 10-year contract, inked in 2008, for the broadcast rights of Champions League had no exit clause.

ESPN-Star shelled out a whopping $975 million for the contract which included telecast and ground sponsorship. From 2009, when the first edition was held, to 2014, the competition has been unable to attract viewers, advertisers and sponsors. The average television ratings for the Champions League has hovered around 1.05 as against 4 for the more popular IPL.

During the period, three title sponsors came and left the competition. The Indian viewers were more interested in the IPL teams and there was a lack of interest for the tournament overseas.

The Champions League’s sub-committee has two members from India, and one each from Australia and South Africa. While at least three Indian teams featured in the tournament, Australia and South Africa could field a minimum of two sides. Outfits from the West Indies, New Zealand, Pakistan, England and Sri Lanka also took part. The ratings did not improve though and Star continued to lose money.

Yet, given that the BCCI, along with Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa, has all but decided to scrap the tournament from this season, Mr. Modi’s words appear surprising.

According to reliable sources, nearly $470 million due from Star for the remaining four years could be waived. In return, Star might pay a total compensation of $300 million to the Indian, Australian and the South African Boards.

The BCCI appears all set for a new Twenty20 competition, replacing the Champions League, featuring the four IPL semi-finalists. The venue, this year, is likely to be the UAE.

And Star now is a bigger player in Indian cricket, having bought rights for all BCCI matches in India from 2012-18 for $750 million. Mr. Murdoch’s Star also happens to be the sponsor of the Indian cricket team.

Under the circumstances, when the ‘exit clause’ issue already appears to have been settled, it does appear baffling that Mr. Murdoch would target Mr. Modi over the same. In any case, Mr. Modi, expelled from the BCCI for “indiscipline and financial irregularities in 2013,” is far away from any decision-making process.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 1:44:47 PM |

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