IPL 2023: Fan engagement at all-time high, says IPL chairman

After a chequered run during the 2020 & 2021 seasons due to Covid-19 pandemic, it was business as usual in the 2023 season with home-and-away matches and crowded galleries

An IPL game (left), Arun Singh Dhumal (right) (Photos: Getty Images, Instagram/ iplt20)
An IPL game (left), Arun Singh Dhumal (right) (Photos: Getty Images, Instagram/ iplt20)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The return of the Indian Premier League (IPL) into it’s home-and-away avatar - across 12 venues because of an increase in teams - had been a phenomenal success in terms of fan engagement, according to a top official of the league.

After a chequered run during the 2020 & 2021 seasons due to Covid-19 pandemic and a limited number of venues as a precautionary measure last year (three venues in Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata and Ahmedabad), it was business as usual in the 2023 season with the two new entries – the Gujarat Titans and the Lucknow Super Giants – playing all their home matches in Ahmedabad and Lucknow, respectively.

‘’The return of home-and-away matches after three years, the competitive nature of cricket where we had only one certain qualifier till the last two days of the league matches, combined to ensure an unprecedented fan engagement – both at all the venues and on the digital front,’’ remarked Arun Singh Dhumal, who was appointed the IPL chairman last year.

Speaking to National Herald over phone, Dhumal felt it was quite an acid test for the glitzy league’s popularity despite it’s success story over the past 15 editions. ‘’This was the first edition after we had split the media rights into two segments – TV and digital rights and the successful bids had seen an exponential rise. Though the final numbers are yet to come, the stakeholders are extremely happy as they see it as a long term investment,’’ said Dhumal, a former BCCI treasurer.

Incidentally, the IPL had raked in an astronomical $6.2 billion for the five-year cycle of 2023-27 for the media rights during their e-auction last June – which made them the second highest valued franchise league globally after the American football (NFL). The valuation of each IPL game this season stands at Rs 1180.2 million ($15.1 m),  which is only below the NFL but marginally higher than the English Premier League. 

Looking ahead at the roadmap for the IPL, the chairman said they would be following this year’s template and also focus on developing the Women’s Premier League introduced this year. Brushing aside suggestions from some quarters that the bigger IPL could eventually see two seasons, Dhumal said: ‘’There are no such plans as of now. The bilateral calendar of ICC, along with their own events, is choc-a-bloc and we had requested the world governing body for the current window so that all boards can release their marquee players.’’

The current format, which sees 74 matches in all, will be followed for next season as well before the BCCI moves on increasing the matches. ‘’In 74 matches, the teams are playing home-and-away but not all of them are getting to play each other twice but we will retain it as per our agreement with the media rights holders in 2024. In the third year of the cycle, we will look at increasing the matches and take it from there,’’ he revealed.

While the organisational efficiency of the IPL has helped them tide over a pandemic in recent times, Dhumal felt that they owed it to thousands of workers who are on the job to conduct the league smoothly. “There are thousands of people down the line as the IPL creates a lot of employment opportunities. From the players, state association officials to the worker who help in putting up the LED boards at the venues – my sincere thanks to all of them,’’ he signed off. 

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