Modi dreams big

Lalit Modi believes the IPL can be to cricket what the English Premier League is to football.

The IPL commissioner was vocal about his ambitions of the six-week tournament that’s about to enter its second year. Due to security concerns in India, the IPL was moved to SA, but Modi is adamant this will do nothing to affect the tournament’s rising popularity.

‘We are very disappointed this is not being staged in India and I know there are a lot of upset kids and fans,’ Modi said. ‘Given the obstacle, we had to look for other opportunities and I’m glad to say South Africa was the best choice.

‘We want these teams to be as big as Manchester United or Arsenal. There’s a long way to go but that’s the objective. Football has the English Premier League and cricket will have the IPL.

‘Fans all over the world will recognise their own players in the various sides and so pick their teams accordingly. Hopefully these fans will stick with these teams over the years and build up a loyalty.’

Modi said more than R120 million has been spent on a marketing campaign entitled ‘The Heat is On’ which makes it the largest South African spending campaign ever. That’s just on adverts and marketing.

Modi believes the IPL will boost the South Africa economy by as much as R1,5 billion to R2 billion. The first four matches of the competition sold out in two hours and the organisers had to add 5000 more seats which were also subsequently sold.

A number of Indian tourists are reportedly heading to South Africa with 4000 people already booked on various airlines. By the end of the tournament when more tourists have been able to organise visas, Modi expects to see that figure up to 10 000.

The IPL boss did, somewhat bizarrely, stress that money is not the priority.

‘Profit is not the point, we are focused on producing a world-class tournament without cutting any corners. A lot of the stadiums are already 90% sold out.

‘It will be a challenge to fill the stadiums for all 59 games and it will be a challenge to ensure we engage the local fans. But it’s a fantastic opportunity to showcase South Africa to the rest of the world.’

The tournament moving to South Africa is a once-off, and Modi said there’s no chance of staging the competition in countries like England and Australia in the near future.

‘We don’t really want to take the IPL out of India. This year was a dramatic one so we had to look elsewhere, but the IPL will move back to India next year. The Champions League on the other hand can be taken from country to country.’

By Jon Cardinelli