Saturday, April 15, 2017

Back in IPL fray: BCCI set to welcome back Chennai, Rajasthan

Having taken a call on how to go about with the media rights auction post the ongoing edition of the IPL, the BCCI is now gearing up to welcome two of its oldest franchises - Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals - on the very day that it releases the 'Invitation To Tender (ITT)' for the above mentioned rights.

A day after the TOI report on BCCI's decision to bring down the media rights period for broadcast bids from 10 years to five, it came to light that the Board is looking to also mark the occasion to articulate the return of two of its original eight franchises. Two-time IPL winners Chennai Super Kings and 2008 champions Rajasthan Royals were suspended from the IPL for two seasons - 2016 & 2017 - by the Supreme Court following the spot-fixing scandal that erupted in 2013.

CSK are learnt to be making grand plans for their return and are in the middle of finalizing events themed around the franchise's massive fan base. An official in the know of things said: MS Dhoni, the former skipper at Rising Pune Supergiant, who "seems to have become an unnecessary talking point for all the wrong reasons other than cricket," will go back to the Super Kings - a team that he had been associated successfully for eight long years - immediately after the end of the 2017 edition.

The Royals, meanwhile, are in talks with a leading corporate - that already has interests in the IPL as of now - for a possible stake sale and could return to the tournament from the 2018 edition onwards with a new (co) owner.

The corporate is looking to extend its stay in the IPL, a tournament that has caught its chairman's fancy, and is therefore happily engaging itself in all possible discussions right now.

Royals too have been looking to bring in new investors in the franchises - either as a co-owner or even toy with the idea of selling the team - for a while now. For this purpose, the franchise even began working its way towards clearing up a lot of its internal concerns like buying back co-owner Suresh Chellaram's 49% share in the ownership structure to douse past controversies. Chellaram, for the record, happens to be former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi's cobrother-in-law.

The IPL could well head into 2018 on a completely fresh note, especially in the present circumstances with the SC-appointed Committee of Administrators overseeing the day-today affairs in Indian cricket.

A leading franchise from the north is in final round of talks with a corporate that has major interests in the sports industry down south. "Talks have been going on for a while and due-diligence is on at the moment. If everything goes through smoothly, both parties will approach the BCCI for a final ratification and go ahead with the deal," a source in the know of things said.

The franchise from north has been on the blocks for sale for a while now while the corporate from south has been desperate to pick an IPL team. Their efforts to buy out Royal Challengers Bangalore a couple of years ago did not materialize when current owners Diageo - who took over the team from its past owner Vijay Mallya - decided to continue their stint in the tournament.

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