In the recent draft held in Dubai for the inaugural International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), slated for the end of this year, some of the biggest names from the world of tennis confirmed their participation. The scale of the cash-rich, IPL-style tournament can be gauged from the fact that of the 28 players selected, 21 are Grand Slam champions and 14 past and present number ones. A total of $24 million was spent on the draft process, with Spain’s Rafael Nadal expected to receive a whopping $1 million per match.
In a game where nothing is considered to match the class or interest garnered by the four Grand Slams—Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open, also considered the four pillars of tennis—the Mahesh Bhupathi-promoted sporting extravaganza can prove to be an exciting proposition.
The IPTL is a spin-off of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the immensely popular slam-bang cricketing tournament that has spawned a series of individual league tournaments in India across various sporting formats. Be it the Hockey India League (HIL) or Indian Badminton League (IBL) or proposed events like the the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), Indian Super League (ISL) and Indian Wrestling League (IWL), every sporting format, it seems, is coming up with a league of its own. The heartening bit is that several private players are also showing keen interest in sporting events other than cricket.
So, is India finally shedding its one-sport nation tag? Cricket commentator Ayaz Memon believes the future of the new league tournaments will depend on how they are managed and how much money is available in the economy. “In IPL too, there were many glitches. Two teams had to opt out of the league because of financial reasons. However, the good part is the revenue generation has not stopped and the franchisee owners have managed to pull in good money so far.”
These league tournaments, all run by private groups in partnership with their respective sports governing bodies, hope to earn most of their money through television and online broadcast deals and sponsorships, akin to the IPL model. “In IPL, it was the revenue model that encouraged others. The TV telecast rights were sold in high numbers every year,” says Memon.
The World Series Hockey pulled in $3 million for its first season from sponsors, which include Bridgestone and Vodafone. This covered about a tenth of the costs. In addition, each team has its