IBL shuttle ready to take off, without star Chinese on board

Lee Chong WeiLee Chong Wei (REUTERS)

Badminton is learning a few bitter truths — like, how it is not quite cricket yet — as it sets about putting together the ambitious Indian Badminton League. The organisers (BAI, commercial partners Sporty Solutionz) and the new franchise owners though, are set to go into a huddle this weekend preparing for its first-ever auction. IBL's Season 1 birth pangs have included finding 6 sets of team owners willing to pump in the money, convincing the isolationist Chinese to part with some speck of their stardust, a slew of postponements and drumming up enough interest to attract far-sighted sponsors who will stick by the sport in the long term.

"I have no qualms in admitting that it's been a huge struggle to find owners for 6 teams. It's tough to make people spend money for people don't believe in sports other than cricket and football. But fortunately we've managed to get six teams," said Ashish Chadha of Sporty Solutionz. Over 100 prospective owners were approached. The higher costs —close to Rs 6 crore — of owning a team was down to the first-season marketing requirements like advertising slots and production budgets amounting to over 20 crore. "I agree it was steeply priced, but we are going to incur those high costs to market the new league," Chadha said.

No gold glitter

No matter how much the rest of the world wants to believe that a shuttle party can go on minus the Chinese, fact remains that players from the badminton powerhouse are the real big-ticket attractions. China picked up 5 of the 5 available gold medals at the London Olympics, and as long as Lin Dan in men's singles and the bevy of Wangs — Yihan, Lin, Xin — as well as Xuerui Li and Yanjiao Jiang in women's singles don't figure in a competition draw, it will be considered star-shorn.

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