WIPL 2023: BCCI keen on bidders with vision for women’s cricket; Franchises for WIPL to be unveiled on Jan 25. Viacom18 bags media rights for WIPL for INR 951 Crores (per match INR 7.09 crores) from 2023-27.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is set to organise a T20 franchise competition for women, on the same lines as the men’s Indian Premier League (IPL), which will likely be known as Women’s Indian Premier League (WIPL); this league will feature five teams. Eight out of ten franchises from the men’s IPL team are in a race to bid for the women’s IPL teams.
As per ESPNCricinfo, the BCCI is set to announce the winning cities when it opens the sealed bids of the respective franchises on January 25. Until January 13, interested bidders were expected to submit questions, and the deadline for submitting the technical bid for evaluation is January 23.
The reports confirm that men’s IPL franchises Mumbai Indians (MI), Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Rajasthan Royals (RR), Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), Punjab Kings (PBKS), Delhi Capitals (DC) and defending IPL champions Gujarat Titans (GT) will be submitting their bids.
The BCCI has listed 10 Indian cities and the tender allows a single party to bid for more than one city. The bids will be accepted for the next ten years, and there is no base price associated with it. Bids will be accepted for a 10-year period (2023-32).
BCCI not obliged to accept highest monetary offer
However, the eligibility criteria for who gets to bid will be set according to the BCCI’s technical evaluation process. The bidder’s worth must be at least INR 1000 crore as of March 31, 2022, and Consortiums or joint-ventures companies are not eligible for the bidding process.
BCCI has included a key clause in the selection of the winning bid, where it says that it would not be “obliged to accept the highest monetary offer”. The BCCI has drawn from the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) media rights offer for women’s global events for the period between 2023-27. The BCCI has categorically stated that it will look at the vision bidders will have towards enhancing the growth of women’s cricket in India.
According to the preliminary reports, BCCI is keen on giving the majority of the women’s league franchises to the existing franchise in the men’s division.
Viacom18 bags media rights for WIPL from 2023-27
Meanwhile, Viacom18 has bagged the media rights for a whopping price of INR 951 Crores (USD 116.7 million approx) for the women’s IPL for the next five years (2023-2027). The BCCI secretary Jay Shah called it out "massive for women’s cricket" while congratulating the company on Twitter.
Auction to take place in February
The board has already set January 26 at or before 5 pm IST as the deadline for Indian players to register for the auction which will likely happen in February with the date to be finalised soon.
The league will replace the Women’s T20 Challenge which was started back in 2018, with a two-team one-off game, and later in 2019, it expanded to a three-team tournament. The years 2020 and 2022 saw two more editions of the Women’s T20 Challenge.
In the document titled 'Guidance note for Indian players' shared by the board with the Indian players, the base price is termed as ‘reserve price’ - for the capped Indian players. It is set at INR 30 lakh, INR 40 lakh and INR 50 lakh, and for uncapped players, it is INR 10 lakh and INR 20 lakh. It is upto the players to set their base price.
According to the directives released, the players are expected to register for the Women's T20 League auction directly to their respective State Associations and not via agents or managers.
“BCCI will only deal directly with the State Associations and at no time will have any communication with player agents or managers. Any failure by a player to abide by this condition will (unless BCCI in its sole discretion decides otherwise) result in the player’s name being withdrawn with immediate effect from the Auction Register and/or Auction List (as appropriate),” states the directive.
As per the current protocols followed in the men’s IPL, the board will form an ‘Auction Register’ with the five yet-to-be-established franchises to devise an ‘Auction List’, which will then be up for bids. Notably, the players who would sign up for the ‘Registered Available Player Pool’ are only allowed to get picked up for replacement players after being unsold at the auction. Each team can have a maximum of eighteen players where they can have six overseas players at most, and each playing XI can include five foreign players (four from Full Member countries and one from an Associate nation).
Top team to progress straight to the final
It is expected that a total of 22 games would be played in the inaugural edition of the Women’s IPL. At the group stage, 20 games will be played as each team will play the rest of the teams twice, and the team that tops the table will qualify for the final. Second and third-placed teams will play an eliminator match to decide on the second finalist.
Last year in February, then BCCI President Sourav Ganguly announced that the women’s IPL would get off the ground in 2023. In August, BCCI zeroed in on March as the window for the women’s IPL; for this, they subsequently made changes to the women’s domestic calendar, which is generally scheduled from November to April.
The franchise league of Australia, the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) is the first women’s T20 league tournament. Since it was first played in 2015-2016, the WBBL has continued to thrive exponentially. In 2021, it witnessed a substantial increase in viewership with average viewing figures reaching over 200,000 per match as per Sportcal. This made WBBL the fourth-most watched domestic league after BBL, Australians Rules Football (AFL) and the rugby league in Australia.
Seeing the success story of WBBL and The Hundred in Australia and the UK, respectively, existing men’s IPL franchises are vouching for their bets on women’s IPL teams, as they have already established a brand associated with them and it would be easier for them to take their brand and expand its portfolio. With women’s cricket taking centrestage, it is a very safe bet that the followership of the game will definitely increase and more women and men would be interested in watching the games.
It could be visualised how lucrative the women’s league will be from the interest of different international league teams that have shown their desire to own a team. Recently, the owners of the English Premier League team Manchester United have also expressed their desire to acquire a team in the Women’s IPL.
A women’s IPL tournament with high commercial value would aim for drawing audiences to the stadiums at matches and increase the country’s array of female talent, therefore, making room for a pool of talented players available for India Women’s cricket team, as Australia and the UK Women’s teams have got a highly skilled bunch of players after the huge success of the WBBL and The Hundred Women’s tournaments.
The secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Jay Shah has said that the money earned from broadcasting rights will all be invested back in developing cricket. This is something women’s cricket in India is looking forward to.