VFI announces ‘real’ volleyball league, Sportzlive cries foul

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Volleyball Federation of India’s announcement to launch a professional Indian Volleyball League has sparked a controversy, which may lead up to a legal battle for the commercial rights of the league.

VFI has announced a tie-up with sports marketing agency Baseline Ventures for the promotion of the sports in the country and launch of the professional Indian Volleyball League in October this year.

However, another sports management company Sportzlive Entertainment has cried foul. “The Indian Volleyball League rights belong to us (Sportzlive) and no other entity is entitled to conduct the league in the country,” Sportzlive co-founder Prasad Mangipudi told insidesport.co.

However, the VFI secretary-general Ramavtar Singh Jhakhar has dismissed Mangipudi’s claims as “baseless and false. This is the ‘real’ volleyball league of the Volleyball Federation of India. Baseline Ventures are the commercial partners for promoting the sport and the official volleyball league,” Jhakhar has told insidesport.co. “Any other claims are baseless and false.

“The league is sanctioned by the core executive committee of the VFI,” adds Jhakhar.

The tug of war between two factions in the VFI and the controversy surrounding the proposed national league dates back to precisely two years. It was on February 24, 2016, when the two factions in the VFI have announced separate professional leagues. The then VFI president Chaudhury Avadesh Kumar had named Sportzlive as the commercial partners for men’s, women’s and beach volleyball leagues.

On the same date, another section of media had published news that the VFI and Baseline Ventures will jointly conduct the men’s, women’s and Indian beach volleyball leagues. The news article, attributed to the VFI secretary Jakhar had stated that “the Executive Committee of Volleyball Federation of India has appointed the core committee to look into all the offers pertaining to conducting the Indian Volleyball League”.

Mangipudi, however, claims that Sportzlive had on January 9, 2016, signed the commercial rights agreement with the VFI and paid a draft of ₹11 crore to the federation.

Amidst the controversies and factionalism in the federation, the league could never take off. The VFI in the past two years had also faced flake and suspension from the world governing body for the sport and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. However, the administrative issues have now been resolved and the national federation is performing its duties with legitimate rights.

Meanwhile, the VFI on the sidelines of the 66th Senior National Volleyball Championship in Kozhikode has yet again announced the signing of a 10-year commercial partnership with Baseline Ventures “to promote Indian volleyball”.

The franchisee-based professional Indian Volleyball League is the first project on the anvil. However, Sportzlive is not comfortable at all with the latest developments even as the fact remains that the VFI had “refunded a part of ₹11 crore” the company had paid as the license fee for the volleyball league commercial rights.

Sportzlive, claiming to be the legitimate owner of the commercial rights of the proposed league, is contemplating “all possible action” to protect its interests. “We have signed the deal with the federation and paid a fee for that. It was the federation’s lapse that the league couldn’t take off for two years,” says Mangipudi. “We will resort to all possible action under the terms of our agreement, whether to invoke an arbitration or seek a legal course.”

The current scenario may yet again force the long-pending league in a limbo as a long-drawn legal battle on the lines of the Indian Badminton League is not ruled out at this stage.