09 Jan

IMG has moved to counter reports that its 13-year event management rights contract with T20 cricket competition the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been terminated, issuing a statement in which it said it was ‘in discussions’ about the future of the deal. 

The Times of India reported on 8 January that the event owner, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), had written to the agency notifying it of a decision to terminate their contract. The publication quoted an unnamed source who suggested the BCCI was now “well equipped to put in place a world class team to run the show” and that the “partnership with IMG had run its course”. 

It seems however that the relationship has not officially ended, with the agency saying discussions are ongoing about the future of the deal. 

In a brief statement, IMG said: “We are in discussions with our colleagues at the BCCI, who we are proud to support on the IPL which has become one of the world’s leading sporting events since its inception in 2007. Most recently, together we safely delivered a successful 2020 season in the UAE, despite extraordinary challenges posed by the global pandemic.” 

IMG has been working with the BCCI since 2007, the year before the inaugural season of the revolutionary cricket event. The agency initially signed a 10-year event management contract with the cricket body. This was renewed as a 5-year deal in 2017. 

The Times of India went on to report that tournament director Catherine Simpson had quit owing to differences with the BCCI with a source telling the publication that the “writing was on the wall ever since her exit”. 

SportBusiness , however, understands that Simpson is standing down, but her departure is not thought to be connected to discussions about the future of the deal. 

The agency also suggested that uncertainty about the agreement was unrelated to Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries decision to buy out IMG’s 50 per-cent stake in their joint venture IMG Reliance, announced earlier this week (See TheDraft Business News 5 January). 

The JV was formed in 2010 to develop, market and manage sports, entertainment and fashion projects in India and claimed in October last year to have raised record revenue on the back of sponsorship and licensing deals for last year’s T20 competition. The standout deal for the firm was securing online fantasy sports platform Dream11’s title sponsorship of the IPL, but the JV worked on behalf of brands rather than the IPL and was never involved in selling the league’s sponsorship rights. 

Should IMG lose the IPL contract it would represent a further blow to its ambitions in cricket. The agency has been sidelined from Cricket South Africa’s attempts to launch a domestic T20 competition since 2017. 

CSA would later regret ignoring warnings from IMG against striking a deal with the Global Sports Commerce (GSC) agency for rights to its new Mzansi Super League T20 franchise competition without securing a bank guarantee. GSC eventually paid just R6.7m ($440k) for international media rights to the 2018 MSL, an underpayment of R44.7m ($2.9m), and sought to renegotiate the deal from 2019 onward. 

John Stephenson 


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