“We Do Want To Establish Ourselves As A Global Brand”
February 16, 2021
Last month, Indian Premier League team the Rajasthan Royals appointed Mike Fordham as Group CEO. Fordham has over 16 years experience working with leading sports organisations around the world.
As a key part of the IMG team that developed the IPL with the BCCI and a man who was also involved in the development of The Hundred for the England & Wales Cricket Board. iSPORTCONNECT spoke with Mike about his new role, what makes the IPL such a strong league and RR as a global brand.
What excites you about this new challenge as Rajasthan Royals Group CEO?
I’m very excited, it’s a great opportunity for me as I’m very passionate about the IPL. I was involved in the IPL right from its inception in 2007-08 when I was with IMG which helped BCCI conceptualise and put together the league, so it’s great to come full circle and work with one of the teams.
“I think there’s a massive opportunity for IPL, both as a league and for all its franchisees, so I’m excited about leading RR in the next phase of its journey.”
I’ve always been an admirer of the Rajasthan Royals. I was around for the first five seasons of the IPL and have observed how RR has grown as a global sports property. I think there’s a massive opportunity for IPL, both as a league and for all its franchisees, so I’m excited about leading RR in the next phase of its journey.
How do you believe the organisation can continue to improve, where do you think the potential lies for the franchise?
I look at three main areas basically when I look at the business, the main being cricket of course as it’s the product. The reason why IPL is such a strong league is because the level of cricket is very high. So in terms of cricket, we are trying to put the strongest team we can and having the best coaching set up. We’ve got the ingredients to have a great team set up. It wasn’t a great season for the franchise last year but we have measures in place to improve next season.
Secondly is the core business: sponsorship, merchandise, matchday experience, which we aren’t having at the moment, and digital activities and marketing. That’s one area we have a strong team in place and have the opportunities to improve revenues there.
The final piece is to gauge which areas we can use to grow the Rajasthan Royals brand and reach. We started an online education business, we’re looking at academies in India and outside India. We have them in the UK and UAE and are now looking to grow them further. We’ll also look at other investments in sports potentially, in cricket leagues around the world and maybe in esports. We are at a phase where we’re currently assessing the opportunities to potentially grow the overall activities of the business.
RR have spoken about becoming the most global IPL team, do you think that’s an area that can be capitalised upon, creating a worldwide fanbase?
We do want to establish ourselves as a global brand. IPL is already a global brand and has grown considerably outside India. We at Rajasthan Royals are more internationally focused than other IPL teams currently but our priority is of course the Indian market as the most revenue comes from our huge domestic supporter base.
How can an IPL team like RR keep building commercially?
In terms of sponsorship, I have been quite pleasantly surprised by how strong the sponsorship market seems to be and that comes from how successful IPL was last year despite being played behind closed doors in the UAE. It did take a hit because of the challenging economic circumstances but if you look at the success of the tournament, the viewership was quite high and the media value of sponsors was very high as well.
“This shows the resilience of IPL as a sports property.”
This shows the resilience of IPL as a sports property. Having said that, the economic climate is still challenging in India, and globally, but we are seeing pretty encouraging signs from the sponsorship market. We just need to be more creative in how we create value for our sponsors.
The IPL is by far cricket’s biggest domestic competition, what makes it so unique?
I think it is the quality of the league and the players. IPL has got the best players from the world. The Indian talent in cricket is phenomenal now when you look at how good and strong all the squads are and the young players who have come up in the last few years, it’s undoubtedly the number one league for all the overseas players.
“No sport can stand still and the most important thing about any league is the quality of action on the field. Innovation and new rules can improve the product and it was interesting to see the Big Bash try new rules this year.”
The way the league is set up, it is all about trying to create an equal squad; equal playing time across the 8 teams which is why you have the minimum spend in the auction and maximum salary cap. All the teams in theory have an equal chance of winning which is why we see matches go down to the wire which makes it a compelling broadcast product. And then we cannot ignore the passion of Indian fans towards cricket.
You’ve been involved in two cricket innovations, the IPL and The Hundred, we’ve recently seen another major T20 comp in the Big Bash add new format adaptations, does cricket in general need to continue to innovate?
No sport can stand still and the most important thing about any league is the quality of action on the field. Innovation and new rules can improve the product and it was interesting to see the Big Bash try new rules this year. We have The Hundred coming up in England which is going to be interesting as it is quite an innovative new format. For IPL, I don’t think it needs to tweak the rules and go into these things. It should look for how technology can improve the broadcast experience or the fan experience.