Sporting leagues are the flavour of the season. And sports broadcasters are lapping up such content as they hunt for non-cricket properties to build other revenue streams.
The International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) has teamed up with Anand Mahindra’s sports management company Mashal Sports to launch professional kabaddi league Pro Kabaddi.
In line with its strategy to pick up local sporting leagues, Star Sports has acquired the media rights to Pro Kabaddi League. Star India COO Sanjay Gupta said, “Our association with kabaddi is in line with our stated objective of transforming the sports landscape and enabling the growth of a multi-sport culture in India. Pro Kabaddi will build an ecosystem that can potentially take this game to the next level. We plan to offer an immersive and engaging experience for kabaddi viewers.”
Mashal Sports has taken the rights to organise the league for a period of 10 years from IKF with an option to renew it further. World Sport Group (WSG) is the official commercial and event partner for the Pro Kabaddi League. Ogilvy and Mather is the creative partner.
Star Sports, which has taken the media rights to the kabaddi league for 10 years, will be responsible for production, marketing and telecasting the league.
Matches will be played as per the current international rules and regulations of the IKF. The federation is also seriously considering making some small but significant changes to the game, to enhance its appeal on television. Matches will be held on a ‘home and away’ format with daily, live and prime-time coverage.
The sports management company has already roped in six team owners with plans to bring in two more, Mashal Sports MD Charu Sharma revealed.
Former Disney India chief Ronnie Screwvala has bought the Mumbai franchise, Kishore Biyani-promoted Future Group has taken the Kolkata franchise, Kotak Group promoter Uday Kotak and Suman Shah have taken up the Pune franchise. Mukand Group’s Rajesh Shah is weighing his options between Delhi, Ranchi and Patna franchises.
This is Screwvala’s second big play in sports. The former media mogul is eyeing the Mumbai franchise of the Indian Super League. His company Unilazer Sports had acquired Mumbai-based football academy PIFA.
Screwvala’s Unilazer Ventures had recently stepped into sports with the launch of Unilazer Sports. The company had appointed Supratik Sen as business head.
Without revealing the names or other details, Sharma said that a Bollywood star has also showed interest in taking a North India franchise. The GMR Group and the Murugappa Group are looking at a franchise in North and South respectively.
Each of the franchise will have to spend between Rs 45–50 million annually which includes a nominal franchise fee. “The franchise fee has been kept nominal so as not to overburden the team owners,” stated Sharma.
With media rights partner frozen, the sports management company is eyeing one title sponsor, three co-sponsors and some partners. He also said that the company will share 80 per cent of the revenue from the central pool with the eight franchises. Marketing partner WSG will receive 10 per cent. The remaining 10 per cent will be retained by Mashal Sports to fund the expenses incurred for organising the league.
Mashal Sports will incur an annual expenditure of Rs 100–150 million by organising the league, added Sharma.
Each team will have 12 players which include seven in the playing squad plus five substitutes. Additionally, each team will have a support staff of 6–7 officials.
Pro League will have a total of 96 players including 72 Indians and 24 international players drawn from 18 countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, England, Indonesia, Italy, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkmenistan, the USA, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
The pool of players will be decided by the IKF. Once the players have been shortlisted, the organisers will conduct a player auction, where each of the teams will get equal opportunity to build their squads.
The Pro Kabaddi League will do robust marketing. Each franchisee will not only have their team colours and star players, but also create their own fan following with innovative media outreach strategies.
“Pro Kabaddi is our attempt at bringing this change to our very own, extremely popular sport of kabaddi. The modern, international, competitive form of the quintessentially Indian sport is already extremely popular across the world and with good television coverage and passionate team owners, kabaddi’s massive following has the potential to make it the next big thing in sport,” said Mahindra.
O&M executive chairman & creative director (South Asia) Piyush Pandey said, “Kabaddi is the ultimate combination of power, agility and tactics. It is one of India’s unique treasures and I am glad that we are able to present it an international stage in such an exciting format.”