Two more teams will enter the Indian Premier League, the world’s richest cricket tournament, after bids worth a combined $703 million for team franchise rights were announced on Sunday.
Counting some of India’s best-known Bollywood stars and billionaire tycoons among its owners, and some of the world’s most illustrious cricketers on its teamsheets, the IPL will have 10 teams from next season and the number of matches will increase from 60 to 94.
The league’s chairman Lalit Modi said the high sums involved in the bidding showed the tournament was recession-proof, and is striving to compete for size with the likes of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the United States.
India, Asia’s third-largest economy, is pulling away from the global slowdown faster than many of its peers in the west, and is forecast to grow at 8.5 percent in the next fiscal year.
Sahara Adventure Sports, part of the Sahara Group, won the rights for a team in the western city of Pune for $370 million. A consortium named Rendezvous Sports World won the franchise for the city of Kochi for $333 million.
“The IPL is recession proof. It’s all about building the eye balls and building the fan base, and we have been able to do that extremely well,” Modi told CNN-IBN news channel from the southern Indian city of Chennai.
“Our ambition is of course to become number one in the world in terms of sporting league.”
Mukesh Ambani, who controls Reliance Industries, and film actors Shah Rukh Khan and Shilpa Shetty, all own teams in the Twenty20 tournament.
Ambani owns the most expensive team playing at the moment, the Mumbai Indians, which he had bought for $111.9 million.
“I don’t think IPL is recession proof, but the economy is pretty good now and cricket remains a very good advertising vehicle in India,” Latika Khaneja, director of Collage Sports Management, told Reuters.
Broadcasting rights to the tournament were sold for $1 billion for 10 years in 2008.