The day after the Lodha panel announced its far-reaching (some might say over-reaching) verdict on the betting scandal, the IPL finds itself in a bit of a pickle. What is the way forward, after this body blow? Here are a few scenarios that could pan out in the immediate future:
1. The owners of the suspended teams, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, could decide to accept their punishment and not take part in the IPL for the next two editions. A lot of time, effort and money have gone into putting these franchises together, and the revenue shared between the BCCI and all the teams is not insignificant, so the owners may be reluctant to sell; CSK is the league’s marquee team, and the Royals have their own dedicated following. However, this will lead to other complications, detailed below.
2. The above scenario means that the players of both these teams will only be able to take part in the IPL if the BCCI invites the formation of two new teams. Under current regulations, RR and CSK players can’t be absorbed by any other team, because each franchise has a limited budget and a fixed pool of 26 players. This might be an easy enough step on paper, but there are risks involved. The new teams may not attract large bids, since the bidders would try and take advantage of the fact that the reputation of the IPL has taken a beating, and even if the teams were formed, sponsors and broadcasters may cut their outflow, reasoning that they’re getting less for their money, especially with CSK out. This would have a direct impact on shared revenues, which would hit the smaller teams hard. Another way might be to bring back the Pune and Kochi franchises – Kochi recently won its case to be compensated for its ejection from the IPL by the BCCI, and is reportedly seeking re-entry into the league rather than a financial settlement.
3. A third scenario is that the owners of the CSK and RR teams could opt to sell their franchises ahead of the 2016 IPL season, in which case the respective teams’ players will be free to play, since the ownership of the suspended teams will change (the suspension applies to the team owners, not the team itself). Plenty of corporate houses, such as Videocon, the Adani group, the RPG group and the Hero group have already expressed interest in buying teams, although it’s not clear yet if they want to buy new all-teams or the suspended ones. This method would probably be the best way to go, for the good of all concerned, but the likelihood of this happening is low, for the reasons outlined in the first scenario.
4. According to the Indian Express, the BCCI is apparently mulling a scenario where it runs the RR and CSK teams itself, under the BCCI banner. This seems highly unlikely to happen, though.
5. Given the BCCI’s reluctance to have anyone dictate terms to it and the massive stakes before the RR and CSK owners, it would not be surprising if the Lodha panel’s verdict were to be immediately appealed and an attempt made to maintain the league’s status quo, with the only casualties being Raj Kundra and Gurunath Meiyappan. It seems certain that Kundra will appeal his life ban, though, and Meiyappan hasn’t yet commented on his ban; he’s possibly not enough of a player any more in this drama anyway.