PODAR Enterprise managing director Rajiv Podar has a long association with cricket, being a partner in Sports Education Development India Limited (SEDIL) along with Kohinoor Group, which provides sports education programs across India. SEDIL has a tie-up with Cricket Australia to provide Cricket Education Programs planned to be implemented in 10 schools all over the country.
His most recent association with the game has come through a partnership in Cricket LLC, which has lifetime commercial rights for cricket in USA. Apart from Podar, Cricket LLC has four other stakeholders which includes Top Bloom Corporation, United States Cricket Association, New Zealand Cricket and Insite, an Australian sports marketing company. Podar and Top Bloom together have 41% stake in the venture while, USACA, NZC and Insite have the remaining stake.
In an interaction with SportzPower's Javed Farooqui, Podar talks about the venture and the imperatives ahead.
What kind of opportunity do you see in USA cricket?
We feel there is huge potential in US, there is a huge expatriate population with more than 20 million followers of the game. Surprisingly, people don't know but after India the next biggest broadcast rights purchase comes from the US. It has over 400 grounds, 46 leagues. There is a huge market itself which we felt was un-tapped and secondly June-July is the month which has an empty slot, US and UK are the only places where you can play in June-July. So we thought that this would be the right time to launch a T20 league.
Cricket LLC has five stakeholders, any specific reasons for having five stakeholders and what does each one bring to the venture?
The USA cricket board had to be there, they are main body for which this is being done. Podar Holdings International Pte Limited and Top Bloom Corporation Limited bring investment and business angle to the whole venture, Insite has got access to players, the concept, the marketing then New Zealand Cricket brings in the ICC membership again the access to players, endorsements, liasoning with ICC and other boards.
Could you shed some more light on the terms of the deal?
This is a transfer of all commercial rights to the LLC for lifelong. The rights include all the commercial rights for hosting a T20 league, a ODI, it includes any format of the commercial games so suppose tomorrow a T-30 comes up like we had T-10 so we have all those future rights if at all that format comes up and bringing any international player to USA, which is Board approved. Anything that is not dis-approved by the ICC. They (rights) have got everything to do with TV rights, sponsorship and merchandising.
What have you planned for the T-20 league?
They (USACA and NZC) are looking to start the league in 2012, six teams to begin with. Which city, what value we haven't decided yet but it should be the major cities.
Do you see Indian corportes taking interest in the proposed league?
Definately, I think US is a big market for Indians so they would like to host themselves there and its a new market. I think today major (cricket) sponsors world over are Indians. We have got fairly good amount of response from corporates who would like to look at a franchise and people have been asking us. But right now its too early to talk about it. Our interest is both Indian corporates as well as American corporates it could be anywhere in the world it could a New Zealand corporate it could be an Australian corporate. There are some people from New Zealand who have shown interest to buy a part of the franchise.
USA already has other sporting leagues like NBA, NFL. So where will cricket league stand in all this?
Cricket is not very popular in US but having said that if you see the viewership, or if you see the buying rights there is a fair amount of population that wants cricket. I was reading one statistic, I don't have authentic records, almost 200,000 people play cricket over the weekends in US. There is growth, the (USA) team is doing well so if they get a league like this and young cricketers see that there is potential to play for an American Premier League there will be more interest and like in India youngsters will start thinking that we can build a good career with cricket.
Don't you think player availibility will be an issue?
We will take some of their players but mostly international players we will begin with. We have spoken to quite a few international players who have indicated their interest to play. We do think that there will be interest (from international players).
IPL was also planning to play games in USA?
If IPL comes to USA they are welcome. We are happy to host it. In any case we will be the host since they have to take the approval of the local board.
Where are you going to play all the matches since you have only one stadium?
We are looking at a possibility of building a couple of stadiums. We are still in the process of selecting the stadiums.
Do you think T-20 format will get more fans into the gamein in the US?
Because in a three-hour format a person feels that he can spend a good evening even if he doesen't understand the game. Like I went to watch a Baseball game, I don't understand the game, it's just that I went there for an outing to see something different and that's where the interest comes up. What T-20 has done worldwide is that it has got in people who are not cricket lovers.
When will you approach the market for the league?
Somewhere in the third or fourth quarter next year because there is a lot of groundwork yet to be done.