India’s leading corporate honchos and at least one actor seem to be taking a kabaddi plunge.
The coming Pro Kabaddi League has found takers in the form of Future Group’s Kishore Biyani, steel major Mukand Group’s Rajesh Shah, Kotak Bank promoter Uday Kotak, and Unilazer’s Ronnie Screwvala, according to a press release from STAR India. Talks are also on with the GMR and Murugappa groups to pick up franchisees for the league. It might also have ignited interest from Abhishek Bachchan, who is said to be eyeing a franchise from North India. He had recently said if the right kind of opportunity comes along, he would be more than happy to invest in sports. Everyone except GMR, Screwvala and the Murugappa group are investing in their personal capacities. Screwvala’s investment is through the sports arm of Unilazer, launched recently.
The corporate honchos have either agreed or are in talks to pick up a franchise among eight cities across the country for the Pro Kabaddi League. This will follow a model similar to the Indian Premier League for cricket. The league was the brainchild of Mashal Sports Pvt Ltd, owned by Mahindra & Mahindra and the International Kabaddi Federation, said the release. Screwvala will own the Mumbai team, while Biyani will own the Kolkata team. Shah and Bachchan might take up franchises from the North. A decision on a specific city is yet to be taken. Pune’s team will be backed by Kotak, while teams from the South will be backed by the GMR and Muruguppa groups. The investment by each franchisee will be around Rs 5 crore a year, including the franchise fee, salary cap, sport development investment and travel and other expenses. The corporates have forked out Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.5 crore annually for the franchise rights for 10 years. They can, however, get revenues from team sponsorship, gate fees and prize money. That is slightly lower than what franchisees of the Indian Hockey League paid — Rs 2.5 crore to Rs 3 crore to buy a team. In the Indian Badminton League, too, the franchisees paid a similar amount. World Sport Group, Asia’s largest sports marketing, media and event management company, is the official commercial and event partner of the kabaddi league. Pro Kabaddi proposes an eight-city league with games played on a home and away basis. Each team will play against all other teams twice in July and August 2014. These games will be telecast live on prime time TV by STAR Sports. Sanjay Gupta, chief operating officer, STAR India, 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 engaging experience for the kabaddi viewers.” STAR has said it will make use of its sports network and entertainment network to promote the league. It will continue its strategy of airing commentary in English and Hindi. Players’ auctions are scheduled around the end of May. The promoters intend to flag off the event by the end half of the year. There will be almost 110 players on the auction roster. The base price of the top players will be nearly Rs 10 lakh, significant considering the salary cap for each team is Rs 60 lakh (for 12 players). These would include three foreign players. In hockey, the franchisees cap for players was Rs 4.4 crore for each team. Commentator and quizmaster Charu Sharma, also the managing director of Mashal Sports, said: “It was a pleasant shock to discover the reach, power and passion of kabaddi, while commentating on the sport at the 2006 Doha Asian Games. I just knew, instinctively then, and more surely now, that modern, international kabaddi has all the ingredients required to make it a major, visible force in the world of sport.”