Member Insights: World T20 Cancellation Provides Crucial Window For IPL To Save Half A Billion

July 28, 2020

Rick Eyre looks at how the domino effect of the ICC pushing back this year’s World T20 competition in Australia to either 2021 or 2022 provides an opportunity for the IPL to save its 2020 season and, with it, prevent huge financial losses.

No major sport has convened an international world championship since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and cricket won’t be the first to do so either. 

The only surprise in the ICC Board’s announcement on July 20 to postpone the Mens T20 World Cup scheduled for Australia this October and November, was that it took so long for them to reach a conclusion that looked obvious since about April. 

The financial hit of staging a World Cup in empty stadia was also something completely unpalatable to the ICC.

The relaunch of the major football codes in Australia during June may have given ICC members something to “watch and see”, but the resurgence of the virus in the south-east of the continent has sent the Australian Football League relocating teams and games from state to state on almost a weekly basis.

A similar scenario involving sixteen national visiting teams, all requiring quarantine on arrival and enlarged squads for substitutes, would be logistically impossible. The financial hit of staging a World Cup in empty stadia was also something completely unpalatable to the ICC.

This year’s World Cup has not been totally cancelled however. With the next Mens T20 World Cup scheduled for India in October-November 2021, a slot has been added to the calendar in 2022 for a tournament to replace the 2020 event. 

It is yet to be determined which year the competition will be rescheduled for, 2021 or 2022.

Whether the Australian tournament is moved to 2021 and that in India back to 2022, or Australia’s World Cup is pushed back two years, is a decision the ICC is yet to make. Broadcasting and sponsorship rights will be able to remain intact with the rescheduling of the World Cup before the conclusion of the current media rights cycle in 2023.

The domino effect of this rescheduling means that the fifty-over ODI Mens World Cup set down for India in early 2023 has been pushed back to October-November of that year.

The postponement of this year’s World Cup has proved a blessing for the BCCI, as it provided them with a window in the calendar in which to reschedule this year’s Indian Premier League, which was postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic shortly before it was to commence in April. 

For the IPL, however, finding a spot in calendar is the easy part. Finding somewhere safe to play is more complicated. With the pandemic not yet controlled in India, matches at all the usual venues are out of the question, and even setting up a “hub” in Mumbai, with several major cricket stadia in close proximity, became an unsafe option. 

Estimates of the loss of broadcast/streaming revenue for one year come to nearly Rs 3300 Crore, (approx $US 440 million).

The BCCI has set plans in motion to transplant the IPL to the United Arab Emirates with a full sixty-game schedule to be played from September 19 to November 8. Matches would be played at Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, almost certainly behind closed doors. Players and staff from all eight clubs will relocate to the UAE for the entire duration of the tournament.  It is reported that the IPL is anticipating booking 60,000 room nights in UAE hotels.

Under UAE regulations applying from August 1, any visitors to the country must have a negative COVID-19 test no earlier than four days before their arrival in the country. If that is done, no quarantine period is required upon arrival.

Currently both the Indian and UAE governments are yet to give their approval, but this is expected to be a formality. There is an enormous amount at stake for the BCCI if they are unable to stage an IPL in 2020. Estimates of the loss of broadcast/streaming revenue for one year come to nearly Rs 3300 Crore, (approx $US 440 million). With sponsorship losses of another Rs 600 crore added, the BCCI would be looking at a loss in excess of half a billion US dollars. Each franchise will be facing the hit from loss of ticket sales and other revenue to the tune of about Rs 3 crore each.

If the BCCI is unable to pull off its ambitious relocation of the IPL in 2020, it might attempt in desperation to hold two tournaments in 2021. That would compress a tight global cricket calendar even tighter.