The Board of Control for Cricket in India is not going through its best days. First, the Supreme Court ordered a clean-up and reshuffle of the entire board. Then, a majority of the other member boards of the International Cricket Council voted in favour of restructuring the governance and revenue sharing models, which would impact the BCCI negatively. Now, one of its biggest sponsors, television network Star India, have said that they will not bid for certain rights in the future, including having their name on the Indian cricket team’s jersey.
“Given all the volatility, we are indeed concerned about the health of cricket in the days ahead,” said Star India chairman and CEO Uday Shankar, in an interview with the Times of India. “No one seems to be talking about making cricket bigger and more popular. We have been very proud that our name is carried on the jersey of Team India. But given all the uncertainties, we have decided not to bid for it again. The commitments being asked for are too onerous without any clarity.”
Star India had won the bid for being the official team sponsor of the Indian team in 2013 for a four-year-period. The current contract, which reportedly has Star paying Rs 19.2 million per match for bilateral series and Rs 6.1 million per game for ICC tournaments, will end on March 31. Under the current contract, Star India has its logo on the Indian men’s, women’s Under-19 and ‘A’ team kits. Star India also have the broadcast, internet and mobile rights for Indian cricket till March 2018.
Shankar said that his company’s main concern is that there is no “consensual leadership” in cricket right now. “The power of cricket came from the fact that everybody was aligned,” he said. “The global cricket leadership was generally aligned to drive it forward. The alignment seems to have broken down. Lack of clarity, both in ICC as well as BCCI, is our biggest concern right now. We have nothing to do with the politics of cricket. Currently, we have invested in cricket more than any other media company has ever done. Our investments in the game are to the tune of a few billion dollars. And hence the business risk for us is very very high.”
Shankar did not want to comment on the proposed revenue-sharing model or new governance structure at the ICC, but said that the centrality of India, which generates “so much revenue for global cricket”, is crucial. “The percentage share of revenue that India generates is very high, but the percentage share of viewership that India generates is even higher,” he said. “And our take here is that nothing should be done to weaken or demotivate that enthusiasm. The consequences of that will be devastating.”
Star India will continue to honour its current contracts, with the BCCI, ICC and other member boards. Some of these contracts run into several years, said Shankar. “We are totally committed to those contracts and we will continue to honour them. However, given all the volatility in the cricket world, we will have to be very careful before making any further commitments.”