After a two year break, the BAI have decided to go ahead with the second edition of the franchise-based Indian Badminton League (IBL) in January next year. The association has already severed its ties with sports marketing firm Sporty Solutionz, who held the rights of the league for 10 years, and have decided that IBL will be held under BAI’s aegis. A buoyant BAI president Akhilesh Das Gupta was not concerned about legal ramifications of going ahead with the IBL and believes franchises and players are more excited because the tournament is being organised directly by the association.
“The matter with Sporty has already been settled in court. We had given them sufficient time to furnish the bank guarantee of Rs 50 crore which they failed. I am sure that court will understand that BAI holds all rights regarding the sport of badminton in this country. Anyone can go to court in this country , we’ll deal with the situation if it crops up,” Das Gupta said .
The president said that the association had already finalised some of the franchise -who are the same from the first edition -while a `few other new owners are coming on board.’ IBL-2, which is expected to get underway on January 2, will be held across six cities -Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai.
“We are only replacing Pune with Chennai this time because we don’t want the league to be held in two cities in the same state. The players will be getting more money this year because we are planning to increase the salary pool from the existing Rs 1.5 crore cap. The franchise owners are already in talks with some Bollywood celebrities, offering them sweat equity in the teams. These celebrities will increase the glamour quotient of the league,” he said.
One of the issues that cropped up during the first edition of the IBL was the grouse over player salaries as well. “The BAI will take bank guarantee from all the franchise owners equivalent to the player salaries in their team. If the players are not paid on time, the BAI can step in,” the president said.
Asked why the BAI took two years to revive the IBL, Das Gupta said, “The BWF calendar only has two windows in January and August. After hosting the first tournament in August in 2013, we didn’t want to organise one in January next year and then August of 2014 wasn’t available because we already had the Commonwealth Games scheduled then. Now for the purpose of having continuity with the league, we have decided to organise it in the January window.”
The one thing the league was missing back in 2013 was Chinese star power and BAI is confident that Asian powerhouses will be well represented in the second edition. “We have spoken to the Chinese federation as well as some of the players directly. The players are keen on participating and we should see some of them in IBL-2,” the president said.
BAI has been impressed by shuttler Ajay Jayaram’s run to the final of the Korea Open. The association is now looking to suggest Jayaram’s name for the sports ministry’s TOPS scheme.