Five Indian players, including Olympic Games bronze medalist Saina Nehwal, were on Saturday announced as the icon players of five of the six city-based franchise outfits in the USD 1 million prize money Indian Badminton League (IBL), to be held next year.
Apart from Saina, whose base price has been fixed at USD 50,000, London Games men's singles quarter finalist Parupalli Kashyap, world bronze medal winning women's pair Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa and up-and-coming P V Sindhu were named as the team icons at the launch of the cash-rich League here.
The IBL, which is a joint initiative of the Badminton Association of India (BAI) and its commercial partner Sporty Solutionz Private Ltd, is to be held in six cities across the country from June 24 to July 11, 2013, and has the blessings of the world body, BWF, which has provided it a clear window in the annual calendar, organisers said.
Eight cities - Delhi, Nagpur, Pune, Mumbai, Lucknow, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore - have been shortlisted for the city-based franchises and six of them would be up for open sales in the first year with Rs 3.5 crore as the base price.
Each team will have the liberty to have up to four foreign players with two available to play in the best-of-five ties on the format of the Sudirman Cup world team championships.
"Malaysia has already confirmed to send all its players (including Olympic silver medal winner Lee Chong Wei). The BAI has already approached the Chinese authorities," said Sporty Solutionz CEO Ashish Chadha at the media conference.
Asked why someone like Wei would accept a base price of USD 25,000, when Kashyap was getting at least double that as his fees, Chadha said the Malaysian star and all others would be put up for the players' auction, where his price would be determined.
Present at the launch, Saina said, "It's a historic moment for Indian badminton. The game has become bigger and that's why this is happening. Like the IPL in cricket, there is a lot of interest and I hope it is really successful."
Saina did not see any problem in accommodating the event in her busy schedule.
"There are so many tournaments the calendar. It (playing in IBL) should not be a problem. I am confident IBL will make the game even more popular among the masses," said Saina.
National coach P Gopichand also welcomed the initiative and said "it's a great boost for Indian badminton. It will be great for the sport. I expect some big names, including from China, to take part as there is good money on offer".
"It will provide a great opportunity for our players to play along with the best players of the world and learn from them. The IBL will be a great catalyst in motivating our youngsters and aspiring talent," said Gopichand, who is also in the ten-member governing council of the League.
BAI chief Dr Akhilesh Das Gupta said he had approached and got the approval of BWF as well as BAC (Asian Badminton Confederation) for the League. "They have welcomed it," he informed.
One of the moving forces behind the League, former international and Maharashtra Badminton Association president Pradeep Gandhe, said the tournament differed a bit from IPL in that all the teams would play in one city for two days and then all would move on to play in another.
"Like in the Sudirman Cup, each tie would have men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles matches," he added.
Chadha said that there would be prize money only for the winners and runners-up in the ratio of 65:35.
"This is the business model we are adopting. The winners of the title would recover most of their investment in the first year itself as the winning prize works out to Rs 3.5 crore and the expenses, including acquisition of team, players salary and other running expenses, would be around Rs 5 crore," he said.
"We will be announcing the franchise teams in the coming weeks and the players' auction would be held in March," he said, adding each team will have eleven players including one under 20 years of age.
"Players would be contracted for five years. They would be with one franchise for two years," he said.
Apart from the icon players, Indian players ranked in the top 20 would have a base price of USD 20,000 and internationals will have USD 10,000 as their base price.
Indian national players and junior players' base prices have been fixed at USD 5,000 and 3,000 respectively.
Foreign players ranked in the top 10 will have USD 25,000 as their base price at the auction while those from 11-25 would have USD 15,000 as the base price.
Overseas shuttlers ranked from 26 onwards would have USD 5,000 as the base price.
The break-up of each team would be as follows: Men's singles - 2, women's singles - 2, men's doubles- 3, women's doubles - 2 and mixed doubles - 2.
All the Indian players would take part in the League while the organisers expect almost all top-ranked players from top badminton playing nations - China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Denmark, Germany and Korea - participating in the 18-day event.
Each franchisee will play a minimum of five ties and there will be 25 league matches, 2 semi-finals and a final. There will be a maximum of 140 matches played over three weeks.
IBL would be played under the BWF and BAI rules and regulations.