New York University

The Indian Premier League and the wider role of Cricket as a  global sport

 

Rohan Mathew

Data, Decision Making & Analytics

MS Sports Business

12/14/2022

Research Topic & Narrative

 

 

The origins of Cricket can be traced back to the early 17th century in southeast England. During the colonial era, British settlers and soldiers took the game to different parts of the world that they were involved with such as Australia, India, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand, and the West Indies. Centuries later, those very countries along with England would go on to form the core of the professional cricket world. As the decades passed, the game evolved with several rule changes, among other cultural evolutions. But somehow, the sport was never able to have a significant influence on most European, North American & South American countries. There are several theories that have been floated around about why there was a lack of interest among these demographics. Some pointed to baseball, others to a lack of advertising appeal. Most people agreed that a likely factor was the length of the games itself – A limited overs game would go on for 6 hours and a Test Game would go on for 8 hours each day over 5 days. Then, from 1978 – 2006, Cricket went through its ‘Age of Revolution’ – a term coined by the most popular cricket magazine in the world – Wisden. Commercial interest grew, and the game went through several phases of restructuring. The end of this revolution started another revolution – the invention of the third and newest format of the game – T20 Cricket. This was a turning point for the sport, as most countries eventually starting prioritising the format over others, clearly noticing the explosion in viewership numbers during the first edition of the T20 World Cup which was held in 2007. One of those countries was India, who co-incidentally enough went on to win that inaugural T20 World Cup. It was a watershed moment for a country that treats the sport of cricket as almost sacred. One year later, the Indian Premier League was created.

Despite having gained independence in 1947 from the British, a huge part of their culture still resides in India. A big part of that culture is Cricket. In the late 90’s, India went through a period of neo-liberalization and transitioned towards a largely free market economy. This brings us to 2008 and the introduction of the Indian Premier League. The T20 franchise-based league began with 8 teams being auctioned off, and a purse that they would be able to spend at a player auction. The league was greatly glamorised, both for television audiences and otherwise. The best players in the world began to play in the IPL and they were paid more money than they had ever been offered to play for their country. The mass audiences in India meant that they never needed international audiences, the domestic market was more than enough. It looked like the greatest thing to ever happen to the sport. But along with revenue, the IPL also gave the governing body of India (BCCI) an enormous amount of power and leverage over the other countries. This has led to several questions about the role of the IPL & the BCCI as it relates to global cricket. Simultaneously, the league and even the sport has had to face allegations of corruption, match fixing scandals, drug scandals and more. Furthermore, the sport has over 2 billion fans worldwide, making it one of the most popular in the world. Yet, active participation and fandom in the sport remains concentrated in very few countries, and these same countries have moved to almost monopolize the sport So where does the sport go from here? To come up with an educated guess, we would have the analyse the social and political factors that are influencing the functioning of the sport in present day.

This research study is an analysis of the social, political, and economic elements that impact the Indian Premier League and the sport of cricket. We will discuss the commercial transition of the sport, the growth opportunities for the game and the potential threats that exist to the sport and the success story of the Indian Premier League.

Using data collected from different stakeholders of the games and case studies will help us critically analyse the functioning of the sport and its governing bodies. Through this research, one can formulate an abstract set of guidelines through which the sport can grow to a much larger scale.

Literature Review

It is vital to understand the forces that led to bringing cricket to where it is today. Then, one can begin to analyse the narratives that will shape the game’s development. The sport’s struggle for global recognition is an obvious one, but a complex one to fix. Most experts cast doubt on whether the sport is truly a global one due to the lack of popularity outside of countries that were a part of the British empire once upon a time. But they also recognize that the sport is extremely polarising in countries where it currently is popular. Furthermore, Europe now leads the membership numbers in the International Cricket Council with 33 members (Naha & Malcom, 2021). A likely reason for this can be attributed to South Asian immigrants in these countries. This provides a glimpse of a specific demographic that could possibly be leveraged to help market the game in newer markets. With respect to the domestic South Asian markets, the game is thriving and forms most of an audience that is only second to football globally. The challenges faced by the sport in achieving wide-scale popularity is not lost upon most. One needs to make the distinction between a global sport and a multi-national sport. A global sport is easier and cheaper to access and is a played by most of the sporting nations. (Gupta, 2009)

India currently stands as the superpower in the world of cricket, and their role in the global cricketing context cannot be understated. India is unique, in that enjoys a sizable domestic market like no other. Interest in cricket remained largely stagnant through the early 2000’s. Then came the invention of Twenty-Twenty Cricket. While the world focused on the Beijing Olympics in 2008, in India another exercise in globalized sports concluded with enthusiastic fanfare and little protest – the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty 20 tournament. Twenty / 20 is a fundamental change in the game of cricket because it made the short version of the game even short and injected more excitement into the sport (Gupta, 2009). The Board of Control for Cricket in India capitalized on the buzz of the new format and created a successful product. Cricket is unique to international sport because a non-western market is the single largest market within the sport. More importantly, the advent of the IPL indicated two things – that India is a factor to be reckoned with in the global economy and the fact that increasingly, sporting markets and the control of international sports may be determined by forces in the non-western world (Gupta, 2009)

But it is the same individuals who agree with the above opinion that highlight the power imbalance that has been created by the IPL. Players are increasingly beginning to prioritise the IPL over their national commitments, and one can only assume whether that is good for the sport as whole or not. (Gupta, 2009) There are several other pieces of evidence to suggest that the BCCI is exerting an undue level of influence over decision making at the international level. Until 2014, full member countries received the same income distribution from ICC events. This was until the big 3 model was proposed by the three biggest cricketing economies – England, Australia and led by India. This would involve a significantly higher portion of revenue going to these countries. The model was eventually revamped, but the big 3 countries continue to make far more revenue than associate and fringe nations. The BCCI currently receives 23% of the ICC events revenue. When you couple that with the short-sighted, regressive decisions of reducing the ODI World Cup to 10 teams and the ridiculous 2 stage 16 team T20 World Cup, it really begins to paint a bleak picture for associate nations. Which is ironic, considering that global participation in cricket has risen and that the standard in associate countries have improved drastically since 2014. (Sarkar, 2020). For a sport that is trying to expand towards new markets, this appears to be a big problem.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Twenty 20 format is most popular one in the sport. Currently, many T20 competitions lose money or only manage to breakeven. However, this can easily change if ambitions are reigned in, and more commercially realistic goals are set. By forgoing the expensive marquee players and focusing instead on local talent & more modest international players, these tournaments will eventually become economically sustainable. (Sarkar, 2020). But this is simply untenable, largely due to the way the cricketing calendar. There are far too many competitions, and very few available windows to have marquee players from all nationalities be able to play in these competitions. The fact that the current scheduling already accounts for far too many games, is a massive challenge.

While the sport faces these challenges, it also faces threats to its reputation as a ‘Gentleman’s Sport. The early origins of the game appeared to prioritise etiquette and respect. The term ‘Spirit of Cricket’ is one of the most widely used terms in the sport even today. But multiple scandals across the world of cricket in this decade have brought upon several reputational questions. This was highlighted by Sandpaper gate, the biggest cheating scandal in the sport in this decade. The public outrage expressed when Australian cricket players admitted to cheating during a Test match by using sandpaper to alter the surface of the match ball was, for some observers, matched by an incredulity captured in variants of the question, ‘how did they think they could get away with it?’ (Hughson & Hughson, 2021). Similar scandals have rocked Indian cricket and the IPL, and questions surrounding conflict of interest regularly come up. The governing bodies from the big 3 have shown growing evidence of operating in the grey.

But a lot of cricket’s values come from cultural inferences, such as all white uniforms for a specific format of the game. Upholding the traditional values of the game are always a consideration. Balancing the need to grow the sport by changing rules, introducing new applications of technology in the sport etc, and maintaining the subjective ‘morality’ of the sport can be a tricky task. (Rajesh, 2020)

 

Research Design

 This research study is designed to gain a wider understanding of the factors that contributed to the rapid rise of the IPL and its impact on cricket as well as the factors that continue to plague the league and the sport from a global perspective. A mixed methods type of research design is used in this study. By collecting quantitative and qualitative data together, one can help strengthen the validity of the key problem identified as well as the assumptions surrounding it. The selection of this research design was primarily to gather information to help provide the reader with a contextual view of the economic and cultural factors influencing the sport. This would hopefully set the foundation for further research and data collection on this subject.

Through this study, a variety of research methods are used – Observations from primary sources of data are the main sources used. While this type of research design is less likely to present unreliable findings particularly due to the focus on finding opinions from multiple people across different stakeholders, one must still be aware of the possibility of bias. The standard deviation of the quantitative data collected is analysed and the findings are also reviewed with an expert in the field. The data was collected keeping demographic variables in mind. When it comes to sampling, the focus was on finding diversity in sources across both quantitative and qualitative data. Observations of multiple relevant stakeholders form the basis of the qualitive analysis conducted in this study.

The goal of this research study is to act as a detailed snapshot for the issue being discussed and to form the basis for further study. Even though a mixed methods research design may not give us a specific answer or solution to the problem identified, the reader will gain a deeper understanding of the hypothesis. This research will serve as a guide to explore the problems identified below through recommendations and additional information.  

The Problem

Through the literature review and other published data, we notice multiple recurring themes that are frequently addressed by the authors or other relevant stakeholders. One of these is the power imbalance that currently exists between the Indian Cricket Board and the rest of the countries. There is growing evidence that the Indian board is directly having a say in scheduling and other major decisions surrounding the functioning of the sport and its’ structure. The Indian Premier League continues to grow rapidly, but there are still several threats to this major success story and the league continues to impact other aspects of the sport as well. Simultaneously, the sport needs to find a way to gain greater global recognition and leverage their current homogenous success to enter new countries and markets. The limitations that the sport faces will be hard to address without the sport eventually transitioning to a truly ‘global’ one. The following sections of this study will address possible solutions and provide recommendations on how the sport’s governing bodies can function more efficiently and meet its’ growth and expansion goals.

Findings

Through the course of this paper, we see that the top 3 cricketing nations are earning a lions share of the revenue earned through international cricket events, despite playing the same number of games and earning significantly higher money through TV rights sold in domestic markets. Below is a breakdown of the current revenue split (Cricinfo, 2017) –

How the ICC revenues will be split (2015-2023 rights cycle)

ICC Gross Revenues
(in US$)

2.5 billion

2.6 billion

2.7 billion

2.8 billion

2.9 billion

3 billion

 BCCI

 255-260

 270-275

 285-290

 305-310

 320-325

 335-340

 ECB

 120-125

 130-135

 135-140

 145-150

 155-160

 160-165

 CA

 110-115

 120-125

 125-130

 135-140

 140-145

 150-155

 CSA

 110-115

 120-125

 125-130

 135-140

 140-145

 150-155

 PCB

 110-115

 120-125

 125-130

 135-140

 140-145

 150-155

 WICB

 110-115

 120-125

 125-130

 135-140

 140-145

 150-155

 NZC

 110-115

 120-125

 125-130

 135-140

 140-145

 150-155

 SLC

 110-115

 120-125

 125-130

 135-140

 140-145

 150-155

 BCB

 110-115

 120-125

 125-130

 135-140

 140-145

 150-155

 ZC

 75-80

 80-85

 85-90

 90-95

 95-100

 105-110

 IRE

 50-55

 55-60

 55-60

 60-65

 65-70

 70-75

 AFG

 50-55

 55-60

 55-60

 60-65

 65-70

 70-75

All member board revenues in millions

While the current cycle represents a small reduction for the big 3 compared to the previous cycle, a major aspect of the calculation of these amounts is the ‘contribution factor’. What each Full Member earned in total from the ICC revenue was a percentage figure of the total revenues (the contribution cost, based on contributions made, and provided as compensation for playing in ICC events: the BCCI had a 20.3% share, ECB 4.4%, Cricket Australia, 2.7% and so on) plus an equal share of the surplus (Cricinfo, 2017). This would make it more difficult for small member nations and other associate nations to be able to invest in the sport domestically, and this structure will not help the ICC’s larger goal of making these teams more competitive and growing the fan interest in these markets.

There is a clear growing sense of discontentment amongst the associate nations over the current structure. Associate members comprise 92 cricket nations in the tier below the elite 12 Full Members in the sport’s archaic tiered system. These 10 top performing Associate nations are the U.S, Scotland, the Netherlands, Oman, UAE, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Namibia, Canada, and Hong Kong. (Lavalette, 2021). Better representation in decision making is one of their key demands.

The other major struggle the sport and its governing bodies face is the current scheduling system. The battle between franchise and international cricket is not the only issue at hand, as the growing number of twenty-twenty competitions across the world has only added to the chaos. There appears to be a clear sign that international cricket is losing that battle.

The above graph is telling for two reasons – not only is less international cricket being played, but there are also more Twenty-Twenty games being played as the years pass. Another fallout from this shifting landscape, is that more players are foregoing international contracts to travel the world and play in different T20 leagues. International cricket might seem like its on the decline, but a majority of cricket’s world calendar is still dominated by meaningless bilateral series’ and other cricket events that aren’t ICC world cups. This is the clearest representation that the current schedule and structure is clearly not effective enough, and that the current cricket calendar needs to be revamped. The below FICA report displays the breakdown of earnings for professional cricketers, and it shows the disparity in compensation.

(Source – ESPNCricinfo)

While poor governance is a recurring theme across these research findings, the main areas these are affecting are the cricketing calendar, the growth of associate / fringe nations and political interference and corruption. The proposed solutions will be focused on addressing each of these areas and providing a clear roadmap towards the compartmentalization of international and franchise cricket, while also address areas of concern and the main primary goal of developing the game across fringe and associate nations.

Recommendations

In order to achieve its larger goal of sustainable growth and shying away from being dependent on the big 3 for revenue, the ICC needs to create a structure that allows for the development of other nations while also ensuring that quality of the product that is international cricket is sustainable. Some key recommendations to do this include –

Entering Cricket in the 2028 Olympics. Cricket has only been featured once in the Olympics, in 1900 with just two participants. This would be the perfect shot in the arm the sport could use and display the new and exciting Twenty-Twenty format to new audiences. The 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles is the perfect event for Cricket’s return to the Olympics, as the USA is about to see the launch of Major League Cricket, a franchise based T20 league.

 

Changing the cricket calendar – Global calendars and the creation of a franchise-based world T20 league. As there’s too much cricket being played and T20 competitions around the world jostle for spots on the calendar and battle for star players availability, the sport would greatly benefit from a consolidated, world T20 franchise league, from franchises based in cities all around the world. This could be given a 6-month window, and the remainder of the window can be dedicated towards international cricket and/or World Cups, which would also make international cricket more interesting again.

Mandatory spots for Associate Nation players in T20 franchises. While this may be the most optimistic of the recommendations provided in this section, this would serve as the perfect way to incentivize and reward some of the best talent that comes from these associate nations. By getting more regular playing time against elite competition, the trickle on effect could be massive, in the T20 format of the game. A move like this would mandate all cricket franchises across the world to play 1 associate member player in their starting 11. This move would have to be instituted by the individual country’s governing bodies.

Sweeping reforms to ICC board. The simplest but perhaps challenging move, greater representation on the board is a must for the nations outside the big 3 and the associate nations. A FIFA like structure could be introduced, where each continental federation receives a certain number of votes based on their size. The goal must be to reduce some of the excessive decision-making power that lies in the hands of the Big 3.

Bibliography

 

 

Andrew, Damon P. S., et al. Research Methods and Design in Sport Management. Second Edition. Champaign, Illinois, Human Kinetics, 2020.

Gupta, Amit. “India and the IPL: Cricket’s Globalized Empire.” The Round Table, Informa UK Limited, Apr. 2009. Crossref, doi:10.1080/00358530902757875.

“How Market Research Radically Transformed the Game of Cricket – SurveyPolice Blog.” SurveyPolice Blog, Aug. 2021, https://www.surveypolice.com/blog/how-market-research-transformed-cricket/.

Naha, Souvik, and Dominic Malcolm. “Cricket at the Beginning of the Long Twenty-First Century.” Sport in Society, no. 8, Informa UK Limited, June 2021, doi:10.1080/17430437.2021.1932307.

Rajesh, J., Mogili, R., & Sivakumar.V., J. (2020). A Critical Study on Indian Premier League (IPL) and Its Marketing Implication to Overcome the Challenges of Controversy, Clutter and Significance Beyond Cricket. Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, 24.

John Hughson & Marina Hughson (2021) Beyond the boundary: the Sandpapergate scandal and the limits of transnational masculinity, Sport in Society, 24:8, 1388-1402, DOI: 10.1080/17430437.2021.1931132

Sarkar, S. (2020). For cricket to grow globally, the BCCI’s power must be challenged. The Full Toss. https://www.thefulltoss.com/england-cricket-blog/for-cricket-to-grow-globally-the-bccis-power-must-be-challenged/

Lavalette, T. (2021). A fight for power emerges ahead of cricket’s all-important CEC election. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/tristanlavalette/2021/06/14/a-fight-for-power-emerges-ahead-of-crickets-all-important-cec-election/?sh=4b0adbd855bb

ESPNcricinfo. (2017). Revealed: The ICC’s new Financial Model. ESPNcricinfo. https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/revealed-the-icc-s-new-financial-model-1081598

Gollapudi, N. (2018). Fica alert: Players desperate to board free-agency Flight. ESPNcricinfo.  https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/fica-alert-players-desperate-to-board-free-agency-flight-1143578

 

 

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