Premier Badminton League this year will be an eight-team affair. Number of the host cities is yet to be decided. Player acquisition is done. With only six franchisee owners on board out of the total eight teams. The remaining two for the time being are represented by the PBL governing council. Nothing new for the PBL.
The earlier edition had only five team owners even as six teams competed in the tournament. The one without a franchisee was “maintained” by the PBL Governing Council. Interestingly enough, the “PBL constitution has a provision to empower the governing council to own the unsold teams”.
It was Mumbai last year. This year it’s Mumbai and Delhi. Surprisingly again, even when there was no franchisee owner on board for Mumbai for the second consecutive year, the PBL has announced an eight-team league for the forthcoming season. “But that is none of the Badminton Association of India concerns”. Officially.
TALE OF MISSING TEAMS
A Mumbai franchisee was never on board for the third season of PBL. Still the commercial rights holders Sportzlive & Entertainment decides to conduct the auction. The auction was moved from Delhi to Hyderabad. “Only to avoid media trial,” say PBL and BAI insiders. “The BAI president (Hemanta Biswa Sarma) was never happy about this move and did not attend the auction.”
A day before the auction, the Delhi Team franchisee owner also pulled out. An agreement dishonoured several days before it were to be implemented for the third season. And there is no accountability fixed, as of now. Efforts are only made to find way outs. If the six-team league could go ahead without having a franchisee for Season II, why couldn’t an eight-team league be initiated without two. After all, the “PBL constitution has a provision”.
The Awadhe Warriors franchisee, too, was insisting to quit. He was finally persuaded to stay. The powers that be had managed to get his nod by four in the morning – a mere six hours before the scheduled auction time.
How did the auction go on without a franchisee to decide on the player combination and commercials. “The Governing council has put up its coaches”. Who was deciding on the commercials? The players cost? There is no answer to this except for “money is not a problem. If the teams are not sold we will pay”.
Coaches Vijaydeep Singh and Ajay Kanwar were asked to step into fill the tables allocated to the Delhi and Mumbai franchisees. The duo made the bids to acquire the players for their respective teams and ensure the “auction” rituals are formalised.
Why? Because there were no franchisees, but the auction must go on!!
How? Because the PBL governing council had no other option! Or, “it is Sports Live and Star Sports’ problem,” if the BAI Honorary General Secretary and official spokesperson Anup Narang is to be believed.
What comes to the fore amidst this tale of two missing teams and efforts to mask the major deficiency is acute unprofessionalism and a glaring effort to sweep everything under the carpet.
Insidesport.co talked to Narang and the PBL Governing Council member Punnaiah Chowdary. The two senior administrators put up absolutely conflicting views. The honorary secretary-general says that he or the BAI shouldn’t even be questioned on the PBL conduct and governance. That is the absolute business of SportzLive & Entertainment and Star Sports. The PBL Governing Council members says the body is empowered to run the unsold teams and it is not unprecedented.
Contrary to the claims made by the BAI honorary secretary, who also happens to be the official spokesperson of the association, Star Sports role is limited to the broadcast and sponsorship sales. The broadcaster has no contractual role or obligation with regard to player or franchisee signings and league operations.
Here are two contradictory responses by the BAI secretary Narang and the PBL governing council senior member Chaudhary on same questions from insidesport.co
Q. It is reliably learnt that the Mumbai and Delhi teams did not have any franchisee owners during the PBL auction in Hyderabad on Monday. How did Governing Council had to step in for those two teams?
Anup Narang: Governing Council does not manage any teams. What happens the people who have been given the responsibility to get the teams is the group of Sports Live and Star Sports. We have licensed out the Premier Badminton League to them. If they cannot get a franchisee, it is their responsibility to arrange franchisees or arrange the team. Badminton Association of India does not directly participate in this.
Badminton Association of India has licensed out the running of PBL to Sports Live and Star Sports. To do the league is their responsibility. We are not having any responsibility to do that. BAI is running badminton in India. Secondly, BAI has made this product, developed this league and given it to Star Sports and Sports Live to run this.
Punnaiah Chowdary: Governing Council had managed the Mumbai team even last year. It is the same this year. Delhi guys told us just two days before the auction (about pulling out) so we are doing the same for them as well.
On the Mumbai and Delhi (tables) we had put our coaches to bid during the auction. PBL Governing council is the owner of the Mumbai franchisee. We have created a provision in the PBL constitution (for governing council to own up a team, if needed).
Mumbai and Delhi are two teams without franchisees. But the Governing Council can handle the finances. By the end of this month we shall be able to sell the Mumbai team. We will also sell the Delhi team.
Q: When the Mumbai team was without a franchisee since last year, how is it that an eight team league in announced?
Narang: The PBL was our idea. It was decided that we will have six teams in the first year and then two teams will be added from the second year onwards. (About not having a particular franchisee) You have to ask this question to Star Sports and Sports Live and not to us. It is their responsibility to get franchisees. We have given them a clear decision that we want eight teams for the league to happen.
My responsibility is that there are proper players and proper matches. Why are you asking me about the teams? You ask Sports Live and Entertainment.
Chowdary: For Delhi, we have participated in the auction temporarily. It is a good team so we will manage to sell it. Everything will be fixed before the league starts. Badminton Association of India will manage everything. There is a demand for the Delhi team as it is a good team. If we don’t get buyers, we will pay. Even last year, Sports Live had paid for the Mumbai team.
Insidesport.co approached Sportzlive and Entertainment director Atul Pandey, who expressed inability to share details on phone. A questionnaire is emailed to Pande and his response is still awaited.