IPL
MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma with the IPL trophy (Credits: Twitter)

Jam-packed stands are one of the biggest attractions of the Indian Premier League (IPL) since the league started in 2008. The biggest and the richest cricket league in the world, IPL has always attracted the crowds. However, things could change in the upcoming season as their are apprehensions that the IPL might be played behind closed-doors in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

In the last couple of weeks, more than two dozens cases of coronavirus has been detected in the country. As of now, the IPL has received the green light from the BCCI albeit with some precautions. However, some key stakeholders in the IPL are urging closed-door matches in the wake of the outbreak.

According to Business Standard, the stakeholders want no ticket sales to minimise the coronavirus risk. With the tournament just weeks away, the health ministry has already flagged its concerns to the sports ministry. A meeting is expected between the brass of the BCCI and the health ministry next week.

IPL, IPL 2020, Indian Premier League 2020
IPL Trophy. Photo by: Deepak Malik /SPORTZPICS for BCCI

The development comes after BCCI president Sourav Ganguly on Friday reiterated that “everything is on schedule” for the IPL which starts on March 29. The report further claimed that the concerns are mounting because of the colossal amounts of money at stake.

“There will obviously be concern about the health impact when 30,000 to 40,000 fans are in one stadium for so many hours for the next seven weeks across the country. One way out is to follow what many other countries are doing in Europe and what people are planning to do in the US, that is, to have closed door matches with no ticket sales,” said a top executive of one of the companies closely involved with the IPL.

Ticket sales for the IPL constitute ~8-10 crore of the income of a team. This is very small compared to the total revenue and, if needed, can be compensated by the BCCI. Only 1 per cent of cricket fans watch the IPL in a stadium. The rest prefer to watch it on television or on OTT platforms.

For Disney (earlier Star TV) the stakes are very high as it has to spend over ~3,270 crore per annum for the broadcasting and digital rights for the IPL. Lack of an audience would obviously adversely impact the brand building exercise for a team, especially as the latest valuation of the eight teams is estimated at $5.7 billion, based on data by Brand Finance, for the country’s most popular sports tournament. This time it will have over 56 matches across nine cities with the finals on May 17.

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