There is interest from Saudi Arabia in purchasing a multi-billion dollar stake in the heavyweight Indian Premier League (IPL) men’s Twenty20 cricket competition, it has been reported.
The Bloomberg news site has reported, citing sources familiar with the matter, that advisors to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have spoken to officials from the Indian government about potentially moving the IPL into a holding company – which could be worth as much as $30 billion.
The IPL is currently run by a governing council, and ultimately by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), with its 10 teams privately owned.
Bloomberg reports that talks were held in September when bin Salman visited India and that proposed Saudi investment into the IPL could come to $5 billion in total worth.
Last December, the franchise league brought in the Saudi Tourism Authority as a commercial partner, to join Saudi oil giant Aramco – which was already the exclusive sponsor of the Orange Cup (worn by the IPL’s top run-scorer) and the Purple Cap (donned by its leading wicket-taker).
However, compared to the other sports in which Saudi Arabia has made significant and controversial investments in recent years – most prominently, soccer and golf – it has not yet had as much to do with cricket.
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Although Aramco also has a deal in place with the ICC, there is no Saudi cricket league, no Saudi players involved in any of the main leagues, and no serious investment (yet) from Saudi firms or the country’s government in any of the main cricketing competitions worldwide.
That may now be changing, however, with these reports following some in April that suggested Saudi government officials had discussions with IPL franchise owners about trying to set up a similar competition in the kingdom.
The 10-team IPL, launched in 2008, has gradually become one of the world’s foremost sports properties in terms of financial value, with the total value of its media rights in the current five-year cycle topping $6 billion.
Evision, the media and entertainment division of the e& Emirati technology and investment group, held media rights in Saudi Arabia to the 2023 IPL, which took place across April and May. These were secured through a deal with the Times Internet Indian media group.