The franchises are auctioned for perpetuity; BCCI will receive the amount over 10 years. The five bidders snapped up the rights for Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Lucknow, respectively. In total, 16 companies bid for the five franchises out of a pool of 10 cities.

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Graphic: Mint

Adani Sportsline, which lost out to CVC Capitals to own the Ahmedabad franchise in the men’s IPL (Indian Premier League), paid the highest bid of 1,289 crore to grab the rights of the women’s team.

Indiawin Sports, a Reliance Industries-owned firm and owner of the Mumbai Indians franchise, spent 912.99 crore on the Mumbai team. In dollar terms, the bid was equal to its initial bid for the IPL team— $111.9 million.

Diageo India-owned Royal Challengers Sports picked up the Bengaluru team for 901 crore, while JSW GMR Cricket, the equal joint venture which owns Delhi Capitals, won the rights to the Delhi team for 810 crore. Capri Global Holdings, another firm which lost out on picking a men’s IPL team in 2021 auctions, paid 757 crore for the Lucknow team.

“I believe that with a record media rights valuation earlier and now with these high bids, the league will be commercially independent and self-sustaining property,” said BCCI secretary Jay Shah. Addressing the media after announcing the winners, he said that now it is the BCCI’s responsibility to work hard and deliver as the bidders have shown so much faith in the league.

The BCCI first auctioned off eight IPL teams in January 2008 for $723.59 million (approximately 2,900 crore), while the combined base price was $400 million ( 1600 crore).

“Today is a historic day in cricket as the bidding for teams of the inaugural Women’s Premier League broke the records of the inaugural Men’s IPL in 2008!” Shah tweeted.

“It’s a huge number—I am sure the teams would have done the math since most of these are existing teams, and they have been profitable for the last few years,” said Tuhin Mishra, managing director and co-founder of sports marketing company Baseline Ventures.

He said that the losses initially might not matter to these big companies. “It is a big thing for women cricketers, too, since they will make the sport a lot more popular, and a lot of the female talents stand to become household names,” said Mishra, whose company also manages talent across sports, including a number of women cricketers such as Smriti Mandhana.

Companies that failed to win any franchise included Knight Riders Sports (owner of Kolkata Knight Riders) with a bid of 666 crore for Kolkata; KPH Dream Cricket (owner of Punjab Kings) with a bid of 412 crore for Dharamsala; Om Industries (Haldiram’s), which bid 240 crore for a couple of cities; Rajasthan Royals’ owners, who bid the lowest— 180 crore—for Indore, Guwahati and Dharamsala, BCCI executives said on the condition of anonymity. Yadu International (JK Cement), Sun TV Network, Torrent Investments, Shriram Value Services, APL Sports (APL Apollo Group), Amrit Lila Enterprises (Kotak Group) and 369 Slingshot Sports Ventures, too, had submitted bids for the franchises.

In a first, the BCCI auctioned the league’s media rights first so as to let potential team owners figure out a business model based on projected revenues from the central pool.

After winning the Mumbai franchise, Nita M. Ambani, chairperson of Reliance Foundation, a part of Reliance Industries, said, “This is a historic moment for Indian cricket. This new women’s league will once again shine a global spotlight on the talent, power, and potential of our girls. I’m sure our Women’s MI team will take the Mumbai Indians brand of fearless and entertaining cricket to a new level altogether.”

This is the fourth team in the company’s kitty under its MI brand. It also owns teams in the South Africa T20 and International League T20 UAE.

Earlier this month, Viacom18 secured media rights for the WPL for a total of 951 crore till 2027, outbidding its sole competitor, Disney Star. The Reliance Industries-controlled broadcaster will cough up a per-match fee of 7.09 crore for the five-year duration of the rights for the women’s T20 cricket league. The network is expected to lose anywhere between 600-650 crore over the five-year period, according to Mint’s estimates.

While the winners have bid aggressively, a senior sports marketing executive—who did not want to be named—said, this will be a tough one to make money on, and none of the teams is going to make any money for at least 10 years. “Cricket sponsorship for women is a losing proposition for the network and the teams. But they all had to bid, a classic case of FOMO (fear of missing out). Overall, and in cricket in general, the market is very bad in the sponsorship space. Look at Byju’s, Paytm, and Mobile Premier League, all these new-age companies have cut down on their spending and pulled back on sponsorships. How will these teams get sponsors or make any money?” the person asked.

Vinit Karnik, GroupM’s head for sports, esports and entertainment in South Asia, said the winning bids were encouraging. “This most definitely marks the beginning of a new era in women’s cricket. It will encourage many girls to take up cricket as a professional sport and increase the bench strength for women cricketers. WPL will also build a robust ecosystem around women’s cricket and offer multiple career opportunities in rural and urban India. WIPL will also further unlock value for the franchisee-based cricket and motivate other sports to consider ideas that will bring diversity, equity and inclusion in the world of sports in India.”

But one M&A head of a company pointed out that this exercise was never done for a P&L story. This is because each of these winning IPL teams is making a profit of 350-400 crore a year now. “So even if they lose 150 crore a year for the women’s team (a notional loss, if that, over the next 10 years), they are still building a cumulative value of men plus women’s teams. It has always been an extension and a value story,” he added. According to Mint’s analysis, on a 1,000 crore bid, a franchise is set to lose between 400-500 crore in the first five years.

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