Sport, without spin, from around the world. Matthew Hall considers the issues behind the headlines and tells the stories that others don't.
India leads us to the future, in South Africa
The future is now and it's taking place in India. Except, for unfortunate reasons, it has been relocated to South Africa. Confused? You needn't be.
The Indian Premier League, a cashed-up short attention-span eight-team cricket league, has begun its second season in South Africa, a country considered far safer to host a sports tournament than India.
Think about that.
Of course, India was deemed a big event liability after the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan national cricket team in neighbouring Pakistan earlier this year but the implications are massive.
"Things will never be the same again," an executive from the International Cricket Council told me after those attacks.
There is much irony, too, in moving an event to South Africa considering fears for spectator security in the country during next year's FIFA World Cup. But money makes the world go around and the IPL is nothing if it is not about money.
That's also one reason why Lalit Modi, the IPL's chairman and commissioner, was reported to have received death threats when the decision to shift the tournament from India was announced.
While IPL players and officials no doubt quietly celebrated the safety of South Africa's five-star hotels and luxury buses to transport them to stadiums (rather than terrorism, South Africa's safety issues largely concern street crime), crime gangs back in India were more concerned by how events would impinge on their illegal betting operations.
Modi, though, didn't care (much).
While full stadiums in India make for great live atmosphere, what makes money for the IPL is television. In a FIFA-like deal, global TV rights for the IPL have been carved up among networks in cricket-loving countries, as well as regions where the sub-continental Diaspora exists (i.e. pretty much everywhere).
Hello to TV deals of varying penetration across South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, the UK, Africa, the US, and the Arab world.
Sony, the giant Japanese media company, has paid a reported US$1.8billion for 10-year broadcast rights. And you thought we were in a global recession?
With this comes TV "friendly" novelty acts embedded into games, like seven-minute "time-outs" created to squeeze more and more advertising into broadcast windows.
This is the stuff of suits and numbers, of course, but genuine glamour exists and it's not in the shape of Australian legend Shane Warne, the captain/coach of the Rajasthan Royals, current IPL Champions (whose co-owner is Lachlan Murdoch, son of media magnate Rupert).
A co-owner of Kings XI Punjab is actress Preity Zinta while the Kolkata Knight Riders – up there with the best team names in sport (and a song and video to match) – are owned by Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla and her husband, Jai Mehta. To keep it real, a concrete company and a brewery own other teams.
So, welcome to an international sports competition, played by nominally Indian teams in Africa, staffed by the sport's biggest names, initially funded by big-name individuals but where TV, ultimately, rules the day.
Maybe plans by the FA Premier League, a football league staffed by international players representing nominally "English" clubs, to play matches around the world isn't so far-fetched after all.
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