Having no foreign players would be a deal breaker

Interview/ Venky Mysore, managing director and CEO, Kolkata Knight Riders

Q/ How do you view the current situation in terms of the sports and entertainment business?

A/ There is no substitute to live entertainment. This year, we have to put things in perspective. Safety, health and managing the risk of Covid-19 are important. The good thing is, sport is restarting in some shape or form. Live cricket will be in great demand when it resumes; it will be a premium product.

Q/ How optimistic are you of the IPL happening?

A/ Social distancing in cricket is doable. Certain developments give us reason to be optimistic [about IPL]. It is largely dependent on the desire of the government to see it take place. The BCCI is looking at an end-of-the-year window.

Q/ Some franchises are fine with a curtailed IPL; what is KKR’s stand?

A/ We believe a curtailed IPL will be the last resort. I do not see any reason it should be curtailed. As long as all the stakeholders feel that the virus is under control, all agree to follow the protocols in place, and [events] like the Asia Cup and T20I World Cup are taken care of, there is a high probability there will be a full window for the IPL.

Q/ With travel restrictions, availability of foreign players can be an issue.

A/ [Having] no foreign players would be a deal breaker. The USP of IPL is the quality of the product. If there are no foreign players, it will be just another domestic competition. The majority of franchises want foreign participation.We have to think about our squad. I am getting calls from all the players; they are looking forward to playing. My sense is, if we get the green signal, the window will allow all players to be available. Each team has eight foreign players, which makes 64 in total. If there is a way to get them here, there are solutions. They can be tested and quarantined before the tournament. The bigger challenge would be going into the competition having not played for long. They will be happy if they can come 15 days in advance.

Q/ The economy is hit, businesses are hit. Will this reflect on the revenue and budgets of all stakeholders?

A/ There is a feel-good factor about sports after months of lockdown. For teams, sponsors, broadcasters, there will be challenges. The business models will change. KKR will have, say seven home games, [and will have to] review food and beverages, and hospitality. [There will be] no merchandising stalls and no spectators. There will be a desire to hold the IPL and forgo revenue from merchandising and gate tickets. Broadcast and media rights are agreed upon by the BCCI and sealed. The broadcaster will also make money from OTT subscriptions; different screening platforms have emerged during lockdown. That is a significant amount of money. Financial challenges have to be solved creatively. The IPL should happen. If in 13 years there is one bad year, so be it.