The Global Social Network
A 2010 NY Times story on corruption in Indian cricket:
Founded three seasons ago, the Indian Premier League managed to make the sport of cricket sexy. India’s corporate titans bought teams, Bollywood stars infused matches with celebrity glamour and fans from Mumbai to Dubai to New Jersey followed the league on television as its value rose to more than $4 billion.
For many Indians, the league, known as the I.P.L., became a symbol of a newly dynamic and confident India that was expanding its influence in the world. Yet after weeks of allegations of graft and financial malfeasance, the resignation of a government minister and the suspension of the league’s charismatic commissioner, the league has become emblematic of something else: how much the old and often corrupt political and business elite still dominates the country.
“The great pity in India is that creations like the I.P.L. became a victim of their own success,” the editor in chief of the magazine India Today, Aroon Purie, wrote this month. “Where there is money involved, especially large sums, corruption is not far behind.”
Ramachandra Guha, a historian who has written a book about cricket, said the I.P.L. tailored itself to the aspirations, and alienation, of an Indian middle class disillusioned with the country’s corruption and poverty. But Mr. Guha said the organization of the league — with teams located in India’s most affluent cities as opposed to having one in every state — has effectively mirrored the deep inequality in society.
“It is the India that is doing well economically,” he said. “It shuts itself off from the other 800 million Indians who live in the hinterlands.”
Now, Mr. Modi is gathering documents for his hearing, while government officials have come under scrutiny. A junior minister of foreign affairs, Shashi Tharoor, was forced to resign because of his involvement with a consortium that won a bid for a team in his home state.
Others who seem closely linked to the league have so far stayed in power as the scandal has assumed political overtones. Mr. Pawar heads a regional political party that is part of the coalition government led by the Congress Party. As yet, investigators have not accused him of any wrongdoing.
And the country’s civil aviation minister, Praful Patel, has faced questions on whether he was involved in the bidding process for a new franchise and whether his ministry had showed favoritism to his daughter, a former model who helps coordinate the I.P.L.’s travel. In late April, the state-owned airline, Air India, canceled a scheduled flight, delaying passengers, so that Mr. Patel’s daughter and several I.P.L. players could use it as a paid charter.
Dhiraj Nayyar, a senior editor at The Financial Express, said the cricket scandal was best understood in the context of India’s economic evolution. When India’s stock exchange took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s, scandals erupted over market manipulation until regulatory structures were strengthened. Today, the same absence of transparency and regulation exists in cricket.
“The I.P.L. is a curious creature that combines the best and worst of Indian capitalism — fabulous enterprise and outcomes on the one side, riddled with cronyism, patronage and power politics on the other,” Mr. Nayyar wrote recently. “In many ways the I.P.L. is a confirmation of what India really is: an emerging economy.”
American Money Has Discovered Indian Cricket
Billion-dollar investment funds and N.F.L. ownership groups are among those angling for a foothold in the Indian Premier League. The returns, not the sport, are the draw.
By Mike Jakeman
Nov. 1, 2022
In the decade since he founded the private investment firm RedBird Capital Partners, Gerry Cardinale has acquired stakes in sports properties as varied as Fenway Sports Group, the Yankees’ YES Network and the Italian soccer team A.C. Milan. One of his partners at RedBird, Alec Scheiner, previously worked as a vice president of the N.F.L.’s Dallas Cowboys, and later ran the Cleveland Browns.
Both men, then, are quite familiar with what a billion-dollar business looks like. The sport where they see the biggest upside these days, though, might be a surprise.
“When we first started looking at cricket, we were by no means experts,” Scheiner said. “But the more we studied it, the more we realized it felt like the N.F.L. did 20 years ago.”
That was why, in June 2021, RedBird bought a 15 percent stake in Rajasthan Royals, a team that competes in the Indian Premier League, for $37.5 million. The money that has poured into the league over the past 15 months suggests that RedBird got a bargain.
Four months after that deal closed, an I.P.L. expansion team sold for $940 million. Eight months after that, the league negotiated new television and digital broadcasting rights agreements worth $6.2 billion.
At more than $1 billion a year, that means India’s top cricket competition — a closed league with only 10 teams — now generates annual broadcast revenues on par with top leagues like the N.F.L. ($10 billion a year), England’s Premier League (about $6.9 billion) and the N.B.A. ($2.7 billion).
On a per-match basis, in fact, the I.P.L., whose season lasts only two months, now ranks behind only the N.F.L.
And suddenly a lot of people want in.
Disney and Sony were among the bidders in the broadcast rights tender last year. CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm that used to own the Formula 1 auto racing series, just added an I.P.L. team to a portfolio that already owns interests in rugby and soccer. Among those it beat out? The American owners of the N.F.L.’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the English soccer giant Manchester United.
“I’m not sure even we thought there would be so much global demand for the franchises,” Scheiner said. RedBird’s $37.5 million investment has most likely quadrupled in value in just a year. And with new investors circling, most experts agree that every I.P.L. franchise is now worth at least $1 billion or more.
That there is money to be made in cricket in India is a new phenomenon. As recently as the 1990s, the sport’s governing body in India had to pay the state-owned broadcaster, Doordarshan, to show the national team’s matches. The start of the I.P.L. in 2008 changed all that. Teams in the league play Twenty20, a television-friendly, three-hour version of the game that has eclipsed the multiple-day Test match format, which had given cricket its fusty and pedestrian image. I.P.L. matches now draw domestic TV audiences of more than 200 million.
The league’s ascent has been rapid. Its architect, Lalit Modi, was a midranking executive at the sport’s governing body in India, the Board of Control for Cricket in India. He correctly spotted that Twenty20 could marry India’s love of cricket to a host of commercial opportunities, and in late 2007 he pulled off a series of unlikely negotiations to assemble a sports league from scratch.