Did you know that India has an international sports league? Only the National Football League (NFL) is more expensive than the Indian Premier League (IPL). Mumbai Indians, the most expensive IPL team, is now worth $1.3 billion. This is more expensive than six MLB teams, twenty-seven NHL teams, and any MLS team. How did cricket become India’s national sport while also spawning a multibillion-dollar industry? Let’s figure it out together.
Cricket’s Importance to India
It is sufficient to cite the example of one of the players to fully comprehend the current state of cricket in India. Virat Kohli is an Indian cricketer who was named to Time magazine’s list of the world’s most influential people. Virat has more Instagram followers than Neymar (208 million), LeBron (153 million), and Mbappe (103 million). Only Ronaldo and Messi are ahead among athletes.
After football, cricket is the second most popular sport. All credit goes to India (as well as Pakistan and Bangladesh). Cricket’s distribution map almost entirely corresponds to the territory of the former British Empire. Cricket was introduced to India by the British in the 18th century. They first played for fun (the first cricket club in Calcutta was founded in 1792), and then residents became interested in the unusual game. The new sport gained popularity: the Parsis (South Asian Zoroastrians of Iranian origin) liked it, and then Hindus and Muslims joined in.
The economic aspect
India is the world’s most populous country (almost 1.5 billion people), followed by Pakistan (240 million) and Bangladesh (170 million). Cricket’s fervent popularity in these countries propels it to second place in terms of audience after football. The 2019 World Cup was broadcast to 1.6 billion viewers, with more than 300 million tuning in live to watch India play Pakistan.
Cricket betting volume is also astounding. What is more striking is the upward trend in these volumes, which has increased significantly over the last few years. And 1xbet is still regarded as the best IPL betting site. And these figures are only going to rise, as India is experiencing the world’s fastest growth in mobile internet access.
Even though it started 15 years ago, Indian clubs are growing faster than NFL and NBA teams. In Indian cricket, money is a relatively new concept. The Ministry of Sports had to pay the state TV channel to broadcast national team matches in the 1990s.
When sports official Lalit Modi launched the Indian Premier League in 2008, a revolution occurred. He began with the commercial format of Twenty20 cricket, which limits matches to three hours and is best suited for TV broadcasts.
Thus was born one of the world’s most commercially appealing leagues. Only the NFL is now worth more than the IPL – slightly more than $10 billion versus $16 billion. Forbes estimated the average cost of an IPL club to be $67 million in 2009. The number of franchises has now increased from eight to ten, with the average cost of one team in 2023 already exceeded $1 billion.
The IPL’s incredible $10 billion/year TV deal is still a long way off. However, the Indian league has surpassed the billion-dollar mark for the season, closing in on the world’s top competitions, the Premier League (around 4 billion) and the NBA (2.7 billion). Not bad for a championship with a season that lasts only two months. The Indian Premier League’s contract value is now second only to the NFL in terms of per-game value.
The league provides approximately 80% of a club’s income through television rights and title sponsorship. Furthermore, the IPL has a salary cap of no more than 35% of revenue. This is significantly lower than the NFL (48%), as well as the NBA (51%). This distinction has enabled all eight clubs to remain profitable despite empty stadiums during the pandemic. The club’s average income in 2021 was $35 million, with an operating income of $9 million (profit before taxes, depreciation, and amortization).
Spectators can profit from the success of their favorite teams as well. Many cricket fans participate in cricket betting, which allows them to profit from correct predictions. All of this helps to popularize this sport among the general public.
With the IPL’s rapid growth, clubs, particularly big ones like the Mumbai Indians, will continue to attract global investors in the near future. And, given the already massive audience’s growth rate, they will almost certainly profit. The American model of a closed league helps to reduce risks even further – relegation from the Indian Premier League is simply impossible.