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Essel registers various entities, rebel league to unfold soon?

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MUMBAI: Gone are the days when cricket was played between 22 players, officiated by two umpires on a lush green cricket field. The sport is way bigger now and involves entities galore. An increase in the number of television channels changed the entire playing field and slowly but surely the game emerged as a million dollar pie that everyone wanted their fingers in.

While Star India has the broadcasting rights of Indian cricket, it is also a strong contender to acquire the telecast rights to the Indian Premier League (IPL) when it is up for grabs in 2017. On the other hand, Multi Screen Media, which currently is the official broadcaster of the IPL, will try every possible trick in the trade to keep the goose that lays golden eggs to itself. 

However, cricket is not a one on one battle anymore. Dr. Subhash Chandra founder of Essel Group and the father figure in Indian television industry has also evinced his interest in cricket and hinted towards establishing a new cricketing entity, which makes cricket a triple threat battle.

Essel Group has reportedly registered various companies in different countries and also established a domain called www.worldcricketcouncil.co.in, which supposedly is a rebel entity of the International Cricket Council (ICC). 

A detailed report in The Guardian reveals that “the domain names registered by the Essel Group including worldcricketcouncil.co.in and cricketassociationofengland.co.in and that their origins have all been traced back to a Ten Sports employee-senior IT manager Deepak Srivastava.”

The group speculatively approached heavyweight players like Micheal Clarke, Ross Taylor and Correy Anderson. Not surprisingly, the developments have irked ICC officials and this was a prime point of discussion when they met for a board meeting in Dubai. The ICC has voiced its concern on the developments and declared investigation against rebel registrations. Apart from company registrations, ICC is said to have begun investigating the registration of website domain -worldcricketcouncil.co.in by an employee of Ten Sports. Moreover, there is growing concern within the ICC about the formation of a rebel world cricket body. 

“In fact, Cricket Australia was the first to bring to notice these fishy proceedings when they objected to the registration of a new company - Australia Cricket Control Limited, late last year. Other company names bearing resemblances to New Zealand Cricket, Cricket Scotland and website domains similar to that of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have been registered since then,” ICC said in a bulletin.

When questioned about the developments, Ten Sports - the sports venture of Essel Group - CEO Rajesh Sethi tells Indiantelevision.com, “First things first, there is no new league coming up. We need to get that clear. We as a group (Essel Group) keep exploring new territories and our research signifies sport as one of the interesting areas. And while we speak of sports, football and cricket certainly hold the pole position. So it’s just something that we have been doing since a long time and there is nothing new. It’s immature to call it a league at this stage.”

According to a cricket expert, a new global cricketing entity, if established properly, will certainly impact the pitch of IPL, which is the largest source of income for the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) and that can be one of the prime motive behind Dr. Chandra’s aggressive push for cricket. “Essel Group in the past also made various efforts to challenge fast growing BCCI and Indian Cricket League is one of them, which ignited the thoughts of a tournament like IPL. Chandra’s vision cannot be questioned. However, on the other hand BCCI won’t make life easy for him as we witnessed during the ICL days. Essel Group has tasted failure once and this time they are certainly aware of what can go wrong or where the risk lies so this time it won’t be that easy to put them down. Overall it will be a worthy scenario to witness,” the expert opined.

The year 2014 saw the emergence of numerous sporting leagues, which are all directly dependent on advertisements and sponsorship. In a scenario like this, the biggest question that arises is whether there is enough room to accommodate Dr Chandra’s second innings in cricket.

Sharing his viewpoint of how advertisers would react to a development like this and if brands would like to associate themselves with a rebel entity, Maxus managing partner head of the north and east regions Navin Khemka says, “Well, whether the league is rebel or pro has no impact on advertisers. Promoters want a platform that can ensure exuberant reach and that will only come if you have competitive matches and quality players. The way the sporting calendar is currently shaped, I don’t see room for one more cricket league because it will be very tough to find a slot where key players are available.”

Another senior executive from the media planning fraternity adds, “A new cricket league will find it extremely difficult to fit into the current competitive scenario and advertisers, who want cricket as platform will go for the likes of IPL, Champions League, T20 World Cup and other available flagship cricket tournaments. If a brand wants to explore beyond cricket, then there are many other emerging leagues that are promising enough. In my opinion, unless it has something new and exclusive to offer, one more cricket league will find it difficult to make a mark on advertisers.”      

     

No doubt that the entire sports fraternity will be keenly focused on what unfolds from the Essel Group stable over time and whether Chandra succeeds in making a substantial mark in his second innings. 

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