HIL franchises hope to break-even in four years

New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) Overseas players and coaches think the Hockey India League (HIL) will do wonders for the game in India and the corporate owners of the franchises see it as serious business as well as a social responsibility.

It is too presumptuous to entertain hopes that HIL will soon make India a pre-eminent hockey nation, restoring the pristine glory of its past. But if the franchises can break-even in four years, as they claim, it will surely be good for both their business and sport.

Ask Sahara India Pariwar, owners of the Lucknow franchise. They say they are as serious about promoting hockey as they are about cricket.

"It all happened so quickly, we didn't get enough time to formulate our marketing plans for HIL. We hope the first year will be a huge success and we have already planned a huge Bollywood night for the first match in Lucknow," director of Sahara Adventure Sports Limited Abhijit Sarkar told IANS.

Of the five franchise owners, Sahara and the Burmans of the Dabur group are the only ones to have their business interests in the Indian Premier League (IPL) as well. Burmans, who are the co-owners of Kings XI Punjab, own the Mumbai Magicians hockey team.

Sahara, who in a startling bid bought IPL's Pune franchise for a whopping Rs.1,900 crore for 10 years, in comparison, used small change of Rs.10-15 crore a year to buy the HIL franchise.

Though the HIL organisers are unwilling to publicly discuss revenue sharing with the franchises, it is like the IPL going to share the TV rights fee with the team owners.

The franchises are looking at the prospects of marketing campaigns and fan base to promote the teams in their catchment areas apart from the city from where they are going to operate.

Sarkar concedes that it is not going to be all that easy for the owners to generate revenue in the name of hockey but they are hoping that they would find ways to do so.

"For us in the Sahara family, the HIL team is part of our corporate social responsibility and so we are not looking at filling our coffers right in the first year. If we can carry out our plans diligently and if our campaigns catch on, then we should be looking at making some money by the fourth edition," said Sarkar.

Jaypee Group chairman Jaiprakash Gaur, an avid sports lover, was really keen on buying the IPL franchise Deccan Chargers when it was up for grabs last year. But when Hockey India (HI) secretary-general Narinder Batra approached him with the HIL idea, the Jaypee Group founder didn't waste time in saying "yes" to owning a team.

"The bid documents were quickly prepared and a chartered plane took off for Mumbai for the IPL bidding but at the last minute our chairman changed his mind and decided to invest in hockey which has always been his favourite sport," Askari Zaidi, senior vice-president of the Jaypee Group, told IANS.

Zaidi said the Jaypee Group, the promoters of the Formula 1 Indian Grand Prix, wants to see some cash flow from the HIL in the fourth year.

"The league will take some time to generate revenue for the owners. But we are hopeful that by the fourth edition the teams will break even," said Zaidi.

Amit Burman, Dabur Group director, told IANS that Mumbai Magicians is fully owned by the Burman family and it has nothing to do with the Dabur Group.

Having run an IPL team, the Burmans don't see any reason why the HIL can't be a commercial success.

"The HIL is very much like the IPL. I don't see any reason why the HIL cannot be a successful business model. It will take some time and hopefully after two-three editions we will be able to turn things around financially," he said.

Batra, who failed to get a buyer for the sixth franchise, remains confident about the league.

"If it wasn't a good commercial proposition, some of these top business groups wouldn't have joined us," said Batra, who has worked very hard to tie up the loose ends so that the HIL takes off as planned.

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