The growing impact of coronavirus on public sporting events has put a huge question mark on Indian Premier League (IPL), scheduled to start on 29th March.
Frankly speaking, the biggest T20 league IPL has all the ingredients that microorganisms require to spur an outbreak – massive crowds packed in claustrophobic stands, players from foreign countries and unending rounds of fan interactions and autograph signings. So, while BCCI President Sourav Ganguly rejected the idea that the coronavirus scare threatens to impact Indian Premier League’s fate in 2020, it’s actually inevitable.
When Ganguly said, “Nothing in India. Not even discussed it,” the cases of infection in India were relatively low. But the country has seen a rapid surge of detections in the last two days. This has increased hysteria, leading to shutting down of schools, cancellations of summits and incoming Holi festive events. Hence, it is not a matter of if but when.
Cancellations and Precautions Abound
Major sporting events are being cancelled or postponed around the world. The inaugural race of the 2020 Moto GP in Qatar on the 8th of March stands cancelled. So does Ireland Women’s Cricket Team’s tour to Thailand.
The prestigious hockey tournament Azlan Shah Cup has been postponed to September. Italian Serie A football league has been put on hold. Even the fate of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo hangs in the balance. But the IPL authorities are adamant that the T20 sporting event will happen. And there’s a reason to their relentlessness.
IPL can’t be Postponed; it will have to be Cancelled
For IPL to take place, the event needs to be aligned with the International Cricketing Calendar. The April-May window is the only time the event can happen. If the pandemic scare grows, IPL will have to be entirely cancelled for 2020.
A senior BCCI official had explained to a media house, “Cancellation means scrapped for the year as this is the window. It can’t be rescheduled”. That will mean huge losses, even when all the matches of the tournament are insured.
Estimating the losses from IPL’s cancellation
The biggest worry from the T20 league’s cancellation would come to the broadcasters. The current TV rights holder, Star Sports, shelled out USD 2.55 billion (roughly INR 16,000 crores) for a five-year term. The advertising revenue and profit estimates for Star from the deal will come down by roughly 20 per cent.
If IPL is cancelled for 2020, the BCCI, the teams and Star Sports will still get to claim insurance but will probably only recover 80 per cent of their investment.
If IPL stands cancelled for 2020, the BCCI, the teams and Star Sports will still get to claim insurance. However, they will probably be able to recover only 80 per cent of their investment. Furthermore, hundreds of sponsorships, team and player endorsements will suffer setbacks.
What works in favour of IPL?
There are a number of parameters that work in favour of IPL. First of all, cricket is relatively less popular than other sports globally, thereby limiting the number of countries involved. The number of overseas players is also limited. Till now, none of the overseas players or any franchise team has hinted at being apprehensive of IPL fuelling the coronavirus outbreak.
Out of the 258 overseas players registered for IPL, only around 60 players will officially play in the league, with most of them being from Australia, England, South Africa, New Zealand, and West Indies. None of these countries have significant outbreaks. The BCCI has said that there is no threat as of now. However, they are continuously monitoring the situation. But IPL getting derailed due to coronavirus seems a possibility.