By Chirayato Banerjee, Daniel Geey and Alex Harvey

Introduction

During a recent trip to Mumbai at the end of last year, two of the authors met over breakfast to share their experiences in the legal world. CB, a judge in the District Judiciary of West Bengal, India and Daniel, a sports lawyer in London, were both brought together by their love of sport and in particular football. In the months that followed, the authors began collaborating on a variety of projects with joint articles on the contrasting characteristics of Indian and European sports.

Their first piece draws its inspiration from the ‘crown jewels’ of the Indian and UK sports markets; the English Premier League (EPL) and the Indian Premier League (IPL). In contrasting the approaches taken from the various stakeholders, the authors share their views and experiences and the different approaches taken by the relevant rights holders in organising and monetising two such iconic sporting leagues.

The aim of this piece is to compare and contrast the different approaches taken by the IPL and the EPL, with a particular focus on how their competitions are set up, how broadcasting rights help fund the central distributions to the teams, how the teams commercialise their own rights, team valuations, cost control and player transfers.

League Structures

IPL: Every year eight IPL franchise teams play in a round-robin format where each side plays each other twice in home-away fixtures. At the conclusion of the league stage, the top four teams qualify for the playoffs, which takes the form of a knock out tournament. The entire IPL season takes place within a two-month window between March to May.

EPL: The EPL is played in a league season format between August and May each year, where each of the 20 teams plays each other twice (also in home-away fixtures). At the end of the season, the team with the highest number of points wins the title and the three teams with the fewest points are relegated to the Championship.

The key difference between the league structures is that relegation and promotion does not occur in the IPL franchise model. This means that the same eight teams compete in the IPL year after year. This contrasts with the EPL where three teams are relegated each season and three new teams are promoted from the Championship to take their place. Another significant difference is that in the IPL there is no qualification for international competitions; whereas the top EPL teams can qualify for the lucrative UEFA Champions League and Europa League competitions. 

Centralised Revenues

IPL: Both the IPL and the EPL provide monies to their member clubs through revenue sharing central distributions, a significant proportion of which come from lucrative broadcasting deals. According to ESPN, the IPL franchises receive a certain percentage of the income from these central rights based on an agreement between the franchises and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). From the period 2008-12, the teams received 80% of the income from the central distributions. This reduced to 60% between 2013-17, and again to 50% from 2018. From the 2017 season this translated into central distributions for each team in the region of $11-$13m.

From 2018 onwards it was reported that as a result of the significantly more lucrative five-year Star India/Vivo broadcasting deal, worth a reported $2.8bn, the total yearly central distribution pool was around $273m (i.e. 50% of the total yearly amount of $546m). From this amount, 90% of the $273m would be split equally between the 8 franchises and 10% would be distributed according to performance related indicators. For example, in 2019 the IPL champions, the Mumbai Indians, received an additional $2.6m; the runners up the Chennai Super Kings $1.6m; third place Delhi Capitals $1.3m; and fourth place Sunrisers Hyderabad $1.1m.

EPL: Mirroring the IPL structure, the main source of revenue for EPL clubs is through the sale of broadcasting rights. From the domestic (i.e. UK) broadcasting revenues, 50% is split equally between the twenty participating clubs; 25% is based on the number of television appearances – called facility fees; and 25% is based on final league standings – called merit payment. The EPL also recently introduced a new performance related element to how non-UK broadcasting monies are distributed (previously the overseas rights revenues were distributed evenly).

In the 2018/19 season, each of the 20 EPL clubs received a minimum of £94m for participating in the EPL. For each club, there was an equal share of at least £75m, and then £1.9m per place and a minimum of £12m for television appearances. Even in the event of relegation, a club still receives parachute payments totalling at least £80m over two or three years (depending on how long the club played in the EPL). This lucrative revenue distribution is largely down to domestic and international broadcasters paying huge sums for the rights to show EPL games. UK broadcasters Sky and BT Sport, along with Amazon, reportedly paid £4.55bn for the domestic rights over the current three-year cycle.

There are some interesting intricacies too. Although Manchester City won the League in the 2018/19 season, earning £150.9m in the process, their rivals Liverpool actually earned greater distribution sums (£152.4m) because Liverpool were featured on UK television on three more occasions (29 as opposed to 26 times).

Commercial Team Sponsorship

Direct sponsorship reportedly forms approximately 20-30% of an IPL team’s revenues. In 2019, Reliance Industries mobile brand Jio was a common sponsor for all the eight teams and Kingfisher supported four teams (Punjab, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore).By way of apparel sponsorship, no IPL team had agreements with global apparel brands such as Nike, Adidas, Puma, New Balance or Under Armour. Instead, Indian brands Zeven, Seven, Tyka and Lux provided the apparel for the IPL teams. This Inside Sport report suggests that the value of individual commercial team sponsorship deals was significant, especially when considered against the weighted value of an annual EPL 10 month season.

IPL Team $m $m Weighted Value [i]
Chennai Super Kings 54-58 270-290
Kolkata Knight Riders 49-52 245-260
Mumbai Indians 49-52. 245- 260
Royal Challengers Bangalore 39-41 195- 205
Delhi Capitals 32-35 160- 175
Sunrisers Hyderabad 32-35 160-175
Rajasthan Royals 32-35 160-175
Kings XI Punjab 28-31 125-155

By way of contrast, the 2018/19 commercial revenue figures for a number of the top EPL clubs, as set out by the excellent Swiss Ramble here, are illuminating:

EPL Teams £m per season
Manchester United  275
Manchester City  227
Liverpool 188
Chelsea  180
Tottenham 135
Arsenal  111
Everton  41
West Ham  36
Wolves 28

In the 2019/20 season, the value of front of shirt sponsorships of all EPL clubs equalled £349.1m, marking a £23.5m increase from the 2018/19 season.  Similarly, kit deals are of real commercial significance for EPL clubs. Arsenal’s long term 6 year Adidas deal was reported to be worth $365m, Chelsea’s 16 year deal with Nike totals $1.15bn, Manchester City’s Puma deal is worth $860m and Adidas pays $920m for its ten year deal with Manchester United.

Player Signings and Salaries

A substantive difference between both competitions is the way the teams recruit talent. The IPL teams use an auction system to source highly sought-after cricketers from around the world. Whilst there is no transfer fee paid, the clubs compete in the auction by bidding amounts to entice players with ever larger salaries. Importantly, the IPL teams have a salary cap of approximately $10.5m (INR 80 Crores)  which limits the amount of money the team can pay to its squad. 

At the 2019 IPL auction, it was reported that the IPL franchises hired 60 players and spent a total of $14.1m (INR 106.8 Crores); an average of $1.7m (INR 13.35 Crores) per player. Notably, some clubs will already have expensive players retained for more than one season so that will eat into the money available to bid for new players in any season’s auction. It was reported that Kings XI Punjab had the biggest remaining purse for the 2020 auction at INR 42.70 crores ($5.5m).

It should be noted that IPL players often play in a variety of different T20 franchise leagues each season (such as the Australian Big Bash, for example) and many will therefore play for a variety of different T20 teams in any one calendar year. In stark contrast, EPL players will usually have longer term contracts (perhaps 4 or 5 years) and will therefore only usually represent one club during a season (unless they are transferred or loaned out in a particular transfer window).

In football, transfer fees are relatively common, with transfer monies paid by a buying club to a selling club. Players can leave without a transfer fee, but that only usually happens when their employment contract has expired. The transfer fees paid by Manchester United for Paul Pogba (£93m) and Romelu Lukaku (£75m) demonstrate the huge sums that EPL clubs are willing to pay for elite talent. In contrast, because IPL players tend to be on short-term contracts (to reflect the short-term nature of the IPL season), they do not transfer between clubs during the term of their employment contracts and therefore transfer fees are generally not payable.

When it comes to salaries, Virat Kohli leads the race in terms of individual IPL earnings being paid $2,656,250 per season. With the IPL running for a period of seven weeks, that roughly translates to a weekly wage of $380,000. This is similar to the wages demanded by the biggest stars in the EPL – Manchester United’s David De Gea, for example, is reported to earn almost $400,000 per week.

In the fascinating Global Salaries Report 2019, the figures painted an interesting comparative picture. The Mumbai Indians average weekly salary was (an adjusted) $105,187, closely followed by Royal Challengers Bangalore ($104,508) and Kings XI Punjab ($102,671). These weekly average figures are comparable to the average weekly salaries at Chelsea ($114,760) and Arsenal ($115,150), but considerably lower than the huge sums paid by Manchester City ($167,969) and Manchester United ($147,250).

Team Valuations

Many elements come into play when valuing an EPL football club or IPL franchise. The main revenues and assets of a team are likely to be a combination of its players, central distributions, match-day revenues,  facilities (such as the stadium and training ground) and its shirt, apparel and other commercial, merchandising and advertising deals. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to calculating the true value of a club, but traditional factors such as income, profits, stadium attendances, player spending and debt all form part of the financial consideration.

In a 2019 study, it was reported that Manchester City was valued at £2.3bn; beating city rivals Manchester United in second place (£2.08bn). Spurs (£1.837bn), Liverpool (£1.615bn) and Chelsea (£1.615bn) made up the top five most valuable EPL clubs. The total value of the league’s clubs was almost £15bn.

In contrast, a brand valuation report from Duff and Phelps valued the overall IPL ecosystem in 2019 at US$6.7bn, marking a growth rate of 7% from 2018. According to the report, the Mumbai Indians are the most valuable team ($107m), marking a 8.5% growth since last year. In contrast, the Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore each recorded an 8% decrease in brand value to $79.5m (INR 630 crores) and $78.5m (INR 595 crores) respectively. So, whilst commercial revenue and player wages are relatively similar in the EPL and IPL, the IPL franchise teams clearly have some way to go (in part because of the much shorter timeframe of matches) before they reach the valuations of their EPL counterparts.

Cost Control

Across a variety of sports including football, cricket, F1, basketball and rugby there are cost control mechanisms in place. Controlling teams’ spending is an important function of any league and it is often necessary in order to curb overspending and protect the long-term financial position of the clubs. However, as we come on to below, there are a variety of different ways in which leagues can seek to control spending.

As mentioned above, the IPL implements a fixed salary cap. This means that, before each season’s auction, each team is given a specific “purse” within which they have to complete a squad of 25 players. This year the purse was Rs. 85 crores for each franchise and as and when teams buy players the purse reduces accordingly. The IPL’s cost control measures seem to now be paying dividends as last year was the first year in which it was reported that every franchise reported a trading profit.

In comparison, the EPL imposes a slightly different financial control model (through the EPL Profitability and Sustainability Regulations) which essentially provides that clubs cannot spend beyond their means. The basics are that club’s cannot spend more than £105m over a three year period and even that requires owner finance guarantees. The consequence of this approach is that, provided clubs generate the necessary revenues, there is no fixed “cap” on what clubs can spend on transfer fees, wages and bonuses. Supporters of this approach point out that it encourages clubs to invest in sustainable and long-term revenue generating assets, whilst critics argue that it unfairly favours the bigger clubs which are able to generate greater revenues (and therefore spend more on transfer fees and wages).

Conclusion

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the sporting sector. The 2020 edition of the IPL has been unable to begin. Likewise, the EPL 2019/20 season faces an uncertain conclusion. But, if the IPL resurfaces this year, demand for the tournament may shoot through the roof in India (though not likely in stadiums), leading to astronomical figures in TV viewership and matchday revenues.

The IPL has caught up with the frontrunners of the global sporting leagues in a relatively short period of time. Just look at the top players’ weekly salaries and broadcast right figures. Even in a post-COVID 19 world, these elite, prime-time live tournaments will continue to draw huge audiences fuelled by pay-TV.


[i] The authors decided on a weighting based on the fact that the IPL is played over an approximate two month window with the EPL over 10 months.

Published by Daniel Geey

I am an associate in Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP’s Competition and EU Regulatory Law Group. First and foremost, I am a football fan. After completing my law degree with a dissertation on the Bosman ruling, I embarked on a Masters Degree in Competition Law and European Football Broadcasting Rights.

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