Virus Scare Puts India’s $6.7 Billion Cricket League in Doubt
(Bloomberg) -- This year’s season of the Indian Premier League, which draws about 40,000 cricket-crazy spectators per match, is facing uncertainty after the government placed border curbs to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
India’s suspension of most visas until April 15 will mean overseas players won’t be able to play any of the 60 matches for the $6.7 billion cricket league, according to a Press Trust India report, casting doubts on the event that was scheduled to start from March 29. India, with 60 cases so far and no deaths, has seen a spike in infection over the past few days.
“This is for the organizers to decide whether they want to go ahead with this or not,” said Dammu Ravi, additional secretary at India’s Foreign Ministry. “Our advice would be not to do it at this time but if they still want to go ahead it’s their decision.”
Any decision at the powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India would have to be taken by BCCI officials such as President Sourav Ganguly, the Indian team’s former captain, and secretary Jay Shah. Shah’s father -- Amit Shah -- is in charge of India’s Home Ministry, which on Wednesday effectively shut India’s international borders. A representative for the BCCI didn’t reply to a text seeking comment.
The viral outbreak, which the World Health Organization has designated a pandemic, has infected over 125,000 people across more than 100 countries and killed at least 4,600 in a little over two months after it first emerged in China. The highly-contagious pathogen has forced global sports organizations from the National Basketball Association in the U.S. to Formula One and the English Premier League, to cancel or postpone events or ban spectators to avoid infection spreading in crowded public gatherings.
All Premier League and lower division soccer matches in the U.K., for example, will be played behind closed doors, the Times of London reported, and all ticket holders would be able to live stream the matches.
It’s unclear if India’s biggest sports franchise will hold the matches as planned or switch to a telecast-only solution. The latter will help garner revenue from broadcast but still mean lost ticket revenues for the cricket board and the team owners.
Started in 2008, the Indian cricket league’s valuation has risen to $6.7 billion from $4.2 billion in 2016, according to valuation-appraisal company Duff & Phelps. It features eight franchise teams competing in a fast-paced Twenty20 version of the game. Last year’s edition was watched by record-breaking 462 million viewers.
STAR India, which is now owned by The Walt Disney Co., paid 163.48 billion rupees ($2.2 billion) to acquire its global media rights for five years to 2022. Disney said last month that it will introduce its Disney+ streaming service in India through its Hotstar platform on March 29, at the beginning of the Indian Premier League cricket season.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.