The base price of two of the six Icon Players, who went unsold in the the Indian Badminton League (IBL), was reduced to ensure they did not suffer a financial loss, national coach Pullela Gopichand asserted on Wednesday.
At the inaugural players' auction for the IBL Monday, organisers were forced to change the rules and lower the base prices of Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta from $50,000 to $25,000, as they remained unsold at the close of the bid Sunday. Their forte, the women's doubles, was earlier dropped from the tournament for want of Indian entries.
After the price cut, Jwala was sold to Delhi Smashers for $31,000 while Ashwini was given to Pune Pistons for $25,000 as it was mandatory for the franchise to have one Icon and the Pune team was left only with the Coorgi girl as icon.
This IBL Governing Council decision upset the two doubles specialists despite the assurance by the organisers that they would be compensated later.
Terming the controversy as "unprecedented" in world badminton, Gopichand hoped the matter would be sorted out soon.
"With due respect to what they (Gutta and Ponappa) are saying, I think the IBL is ensuring that the players are not at a financial loss. I hope this issue is resolved and we must move on because what is happening is unprecedented in world badminton," said Gopichand.
Delighted over the money involved in the league, Gopichand said it will greatly benefit the sport.
"There are players who are extremely happy and money was never thought of earlier in Indian or world badminton. So, something like this which has huge benefits for sport, for badminton, for existing players and future generations, we all need to welcome and move on to take it in a positive direction," said the former All-England champion.
Welcoming the IBL, Gopichand said at Durgapur in Burdwan district: "It's great for Indian badminton. The kind of money the players will get is phenomenal."
Following cricket, hockey and boxing, badminton too jumped into the business of city-based franchise leagues with the IBL, touted as the world's richest badminton tournament having a purse of $1 million.
India's top shuttler and Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal was sold to Hyderabad Hostshots for a whopping $120,000 while World No.1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia got the highest bid of $135,000 from Mumbai Masters at the auction in New Delhi Monday. Parupalli Kashyap ($75,000) and P.V. Sindhu ($80,000) were sold respectively to Banga Beats and Lucknow Warriors. All four had a base price of $50,000.
The league kicks off Aug 14 with a tie between Delhi Smashers and Pune Pistons and each franchise will host a two-day leg with a total of 90 matches. The top four franchises will clash in the semi-finals and the winners will meet in the final Aug 31 in Mumbai.