Fighting last-minute uncertainties and challenges like non-availability of a venues and withdrawals by key players, the Premier Badminton League this year has struggled to draw desired spectator and sponsorship support.
The attendance in the stadium for the opening round in Chennai has been dismal and there are precious little on brands’ front to display on the digital sponsorship boards. This is a sharp contrast to what was considered India’s fastest rising sport not very long ago.
As Rajya Sabha MP Ambumani Ramados handed over the prizes to the players of the match in Chennai, the backdrop supported only Star Sports and Bridgestone tyres logos other than the PBL and the Badminton Association of India emblems. The stands during the match earlier wore a deserted look. The two visuals indicate that the league has not invoked the desired response from spectators and sponsors.
However, the league organisers SportzLive are attributing the poor turnout to the issues with the ticketing partner. “There have been issues on the ticketing partner’s front. We have had 3,000 people on the Day One but crowd has been poor on the second day. It should be okay now,” said Atul Pandey, founder and managing director, SportzLive.
The crowd may still grow as the league progresses.
However, the lack of sponsorship has been a major concern. Star Sports, the broadcast and inventory rights holders for the PBL, is itself exercising the title sponsorship rights since it could not find a replacement for Vodafone. The mobile service provider had declined to extend the PBL title sponsorship contract on completion its four-year deal.
The other sponsor, automobile tyre brand Bridgestone in the ‘Associate’ category, has been roped into the PBL as part of Star Sports’ multiple inventory tie-up, including the Khelo India Youth Games in Assam.
The league this year has also faced some unexpected and unwarranted firsts. Bengaluru franchisee declined to host the allocated games as it could not get the stadium from the Karnataka State sports department, which will be organising some school games and dates were clashing with the PBL.
The PBL organisers in yet another unprecedented move have shifted Gabrielle Adcock to Pune 7Aces after the English shuttler was initially named in the Chennai Superstarz’s squad.
The last phase of the league will be played at Hyderabad at a stretch across 12 days, including the semi-finals and finals. There remains concerns whether the competition will be able to sustain spectators interest for such a long period of time. The organisers though cannot be blamed for that. As the Karnataka State sports department’s denial to provide the indoor stadium in Bengaluru had adversely affected the league schedule. The Karnataka Capital has traditionally attracted good crowds for the badminton league.