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This newsletter has been discontinued. But you can read The Stack which includes our newsletters around cleantech, fintech, personal finance and e-commerce in India!

A weekly newsletter that often deconstructs but always explains the business of sport from India
Good Evening Dear Reader,

Sports is globally a $1.1 trillion industry. And India is where a lot of the future action will be, given its young population, large economy, and exploding internet usage. 


I’m Jaideep, a journalist with nearly 10 years of experience divided across two beats: sports and business. In the last four years, in particular, I’ve written on the intersection of sports and business for publications like, Quartz, Forbes India, Mint Lounge, and The Ken


And that bustling intersection is what this brand-new newsletter is all about. Moneyball will be your front seat to the most significant innovations and disruptions—a weekly newsletter that often deconstructs but always explains the business of sport from India. 


Moneyball will arrive in your inbox every Friday at 4 PM Indian Standard Time (IST). It is also just one of seven new weekly newsletters we’ve launched this week, all of which you can find here. If you haven’t checked them out already, I highly recommend you do. You won’t be disappointed. 


I would also love to hear from you, so feel free to reach out to me with any questions, topics you’d like covered, or feedback at [email protected]

The cat-and-mouse game between BCCI and ICC

There’s no dearth of drama in Indian cricket. 


No, I’m not talking about the Indian Premier League (IPL), the world’s most popular and richest cricket tournament, whose 2021 edition is nearing its end. Or even the Indian women’s team’s tour of Australia, which is throwing up some fantastic matches.

There’s a lot of pulsating action on our screens every day, but there’s an equally interesting game being played off-screen. A game of cat and mouse.


Last week, in our now-retired Beyond the First Order newsletter, I wrote about how the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the International Cricket Council (ICC)—the governing bodies of Indian and world cricket respectively—are trying to one-up each other with respect to selling their media rights.


After media reports suggested that the ICC was planning to release the rights tender for its 2024-2031 cycle as early as December this year, the BCCI swooped in and announced that it will release the IPL rights tender for 2023-2027 later this month. 

Not wanting to be one-upped so easily, the ICC got its thinking cap on. According to a recent Times of India report, it is now planning to:

a) halve its eight-year rights cycle into two;

b) split up the rights by territories rather than a global consolidated bid.


Let’s look at each of these plans individually.


The ICC’s last eight-year rights cycle (2015-2023) sold for around US$1.9 billion in 2014. Three years later, the BCCI raked in US$2.55 billion for five-year (2018-2022) IPL rights. Both sets of global rights were bought by Indian broadcaster Star India. The BCCI is expected to get at least 25% more—around US$3.2 billion—for the IPL’s next five-year rights cycle (2023-2027). Since it will be the first mover, it could even get more than that.


Now, since the ICC failed to beat the BCCI in this round of quick-draw, it thought: why not halve the cycle-length? Why sell the rights for another eight years now and then wait until the next decade for its next payday? An eight-year cycle is unusually long in today’s era. While the IPL’s inaugural rights cycle in 2007 was for 10 years, that was because it was tied to the initial grant of the franchise rights, which was for 10 years. 


That said, the ICC’s eight-year cycle made sense earlier because it didn’t have more than one marquee event a year until recently. But with the introduction of tournaments like the World Test Championship, things have changed. According to the ICC’s schedule of events for the 2024-2031 period, announced in June, there will be at least three marquee events every year.

Source: ICC


With such a packed calendar, a shorter cycle could work. “I think the ICC is reducing the cycle length just to ensure they get more value,” said an executive who’s aware of how cricket broadcast deals work in India, on condition of anonymity. “They would prefer an eight-year cycle because they need to have a long-term revenue distribution model for all their member boards. If they reduce it to four, it’s purely because there may not be enough money in the market right now, because of the pandemic, to justify an eight-year deal.” 


One thing the ICC has in its favour is that India’s sports broadcast industry is now a three-horse race. It’s unlikely that Star India will hold all the major cricket rights in the future. As I’ve reported for The Ken, India’s largest conglomerate Reliance Industries is getting serious about sports broadcasting. And the impending merger of Sony Pictures Network and Zee Entertainment is set to create the largest media group in India.  


However, the two broadcasters that don’t win the IPL rights will go into the ICC bid with the knowledge that the third player may not put up much of a fight. “They're just fighting for whatever is left of the market,” said the executive. “When Star won all the big cricket rights in 2017-18, they let go of other deals like Australia and England cricket.” 


Which means the ICC may not get as fierce a bidding war as it might hope. That’s why shortening the rights cycle, along with loading up the calendar, could make sense. And then, it can go for it again in 2027. 


As for the plan to split up the rights into territories, it makes sense to seal the biggest revenue market—India—before focusing on other regions. “They’ll probably also break it down into six or seven categories like the IPL—India (television), India (digital), USA, Middle East, etc,” said the executive. “The only reason Star won the IPL rights in 2017 was because their global consolidated bid was greater than the sum of all the highest individual bids put together. If someone would have put Rs 500 crore (US$80 million) more, Star would have got nothing.” 


It’s a fascinating battle to follow. In a way, it’s a win-win situation for the BCCI because the more money ICC gets, the more the Indian cricket board stands to gain because of the ICC’s revenue distribution model. The BCCI will receive US$293 million from the current eight-year ICC rights cycle—the highest among all ICC members.

But this cat-and-mouse game will likely continue. Because the valuation of IPL will always be a lot higher than ICC events. And the BCCI also has full control of the IPL, unlike the ICC whose revenue distribution model brings with it the element of reciprocity—like participating in series that may not make the most monetary sense for the BCCI.

Who will win this cat-and-mouse game? Your guess is as good as mine.
Newcastle United enters the 'sportswashing' club

Finally, it has happened. Eighteen months after the initial takeover deal fell through, a consortium led by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, was confirmed on Thursday as the new owner of Newcastle United football club. 


The £300 million (US$408 million) takeover deal ends British retail entrepreneur Mike Ashley’s controversial 14-year ownership of Newcastle—a period during which the club suffered two relegations from the Premier League, English football’s top flight. Newcastle currently sit second from bottom in the Premier League, with three points from seven matches. That’s likely to change in the coming years. 


The consortium aims to take the club back into the Champions League, the most prestigious club tournament in Europe. Newcastle haven’t featured in this competition since 2002-03. And the club hasn’t won the English top-flight league since 1926-27, although it finished runners-up in back-to-back seasons in 1995-96 and 1996-97.


The path to the takeover was cleared on Wednesday after Saudi Arabia lifted its four‑year ban on Qatar-based network beIN Sports, which is the official broadcaster of the Premier League in the Middle East. As part of the deal, Saudi Arabia also promised to shut down pirate websites in the country—a major bone of contention between the kingdom and the broadcaster.


The PIF has also provided “legally binding assurances” to the Premier League that the kingdom will not control Newcastle. Even though the distinction between the PIF and the Saudi government appears to be minor, this was a major stumbling block in July 2020, when the consortium had first tried to buy the club. 


While news of Ashley’s departure brought joy to millions of Newcastle fans, human rights groups like Amnesty International have been vocal opponents of the Saudi takeover. Amnesty has said that Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s regime is trying to “sportswash” its abysmal human rights record.


The takeover announcement ironically comes just days after the third anniversary of the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist and critic of the Saudi government. He was reportedly murdered after walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.


Newcastle, of course, is hardly the first entrant into the sportswashing club from the football world. Premier League defending champions Manchester City have deep connections with the Abu Dhabi royal family. The United Arab Emirates’ human rights record isn’t great either. Across the English Channel, Paris Saint-Germain, the employers of superstar footballers Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappe, are owned by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund. More than 6,500 migrant workers have died in the Gulf state since it won the rights to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup 10 years ago, according to The Guardian.


Unfortunately, none of that matters for now. The Newcastle takeover is complete. And while some fans may feel uncomfortable, a poll conducted by the Newcastle United Supporters Trust before this season started revealed that nearly 94% of its members were in favour of the takeover. Which only tells you how disastrous the last 14 years under Ashley have been.

Source: NUST/Twitter


PS: In case you want a lowdown on the Mike Ashley regime at Newcastle, this piece by The Athletic (paywalled) is a must-read.

Quick Singles

🇮🇳 🇵🇰 🏏 📺  The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup begins later this month, and the big attraction—like in all ICC events—is the India-Pakistan clash on 24 October. If you’re a brand that wants to advertise during this match, you’ll have to cough up reportedly Rs 25-30 lakh (US$33,000-40,000) for a 10-second ad spot. That’s more than even the IPL, where Star is reportedly charging up to Rs 17.2 lakh (US$23,000) per 10 seconds. 🤯 []


🏎️ 🇸🇬 📺  Singaporean telco Singtel has acquired the broadcast rights of Formula One from Fox Sports Asia, which shut down last week. The Turkish Grand Prix this weekend will be available to all Singtel subscribers for free, but they’ll have to subscribe to one of Singtel’s packages to watch future races in the 2021 and 2022 seasons. [Straits Times]


🏏 🕵️  Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar is among the celebrities who allegedly used offshore tax havens, according to the latest findings from the Pandora Papers leak. The former cricketer and his family members were named as “beneficiary owners” and directors of a company based in the British Virgin Islands. The company was reportedly liquidated three months after the Panama Papers expose in 2016. [Indian Express]


⚽️ 🎮  Your favourite football game could be getting a new name. Electronic Arts, the publisher of the popular video game FIFA, which is named after the world football governing body, is reviewing its naming rights agreement. FIFA 22, released last week, could be the last edition with the FIFA name. [ESPN]


🎞️ 🎮  With people still being wary of going to the cinemas despite them slowly opening up across India, one multiplex chain has decided to try something different. PVR Cinemas has signed a deal with gaming company NODWIN Gaming to bring live e-sports tournaments to movie screens. The first game to go on the big screen will be India’s PUBG—Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI). [The Hindu Business Line]


📱 🎮  Since we’re on gaming, did you know that Apple is one of the world’s largest gaming companies? Confused? Well, the iPhone maker made more profits from selling games on its App Store than gaming majors Sony (PlayStation), Microsoft (Xbox), Nintendo, and Activision Blizzard combined in its fiscal year 2019. 🤯  [Wall Street Journal]

📱 ⚽️ 🦁  And speaking of Apple, have you watched Ted Lasso? You really should. The hit sports dramedy series on Apple TV+ recently signed a licensing deal with the Premier League, reportedly worth £500,000 (US$680,000). The show will now be able to use archive footage, logos, club kits and more from the Premier League. Could this also mean Apple TV+ is getting into sports broadcasting? 👀 [The Athletic]
What We're Reading
🤸‍♀️  Simone Biles, widely considered the greatest gymnast of all time, shocked the world when she pulled out of five finals at the Tokyo Olympics in August because of mental health issues. Or, in gymnastics, what is known as having “the twisties”. In an interview with New York magazine, Biles opened up about what she went through in Tokyo.
Say up until you’re 30 years old, you have your complete eyesight,” Biles says. “One morning, you wake up, you can’t see shit, but people tell you to go on and do your daily job as if you still have your eyesight. You’d be lost, wouldn’t you? That’s the only thing I can relate it to. I have been doing gymnastics for 18 years. I woke up — lost it. How am I supposed to go on with my day?
Simone Biles

Read the full interview here.

Source: Susie Butler/Creative Commons


🤼‍♀️  Twenty-year-old Anshu Malik made history earlier this week when she became the first Indian woman wrestler to reach the finals of the World Championships. Despite there being a depleted field in Oslo after the Olympics, Malik overcame a number of hurdles enroute to the finals, where she eventually lost to 2016 Olympic champion Helen Louise Maroulis.’s Jonathan Selvaraj wrote about Malik’s journey.


⚽️🏏  What do Praful Patel and Sourav Ganguly have in common? Yes, they are the presidents of the governing bodies of Indian football and cricket, respectively. But they shouldn’t be any more, according to the rules. Here’s Jaydeep Basu explaining the legal and administrative tangle, for

What To Watch in the Coming Week

🏏  IPL 2021 is nearly over, with the league stage concluding on Friday. There are two simultaneous matches at 7.30 pm IST—Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Mumbai Indians, and Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Delhi Capitals. While RCB and DC have already qualified for the playoffs, Mumbai Indians need a huge—almost impossible—win on Friday to stand a chance of retaining their title. The playoffs begin on Sunday, with the final taking place on Friday, 15 October.


⚽️  With the international break going on, there is no club football this weekend. The UEFA Nations League third-place playoff between Italy and Belgium will take place on Sunday at 6.30 pm IST, followed by the final between Spain and France on Monday 12.15 am IST. 


🏁  The Turkish Grand Prix is scheduled for this weekend at Istanbul Park. The first two practice sessions will be on Friday, followed by the third practice session and Qualifying on Saturday. The main race is on Sunday at 5.30 pm IST. 

🤼  The Wrestling World Championships conclude on Sunday, 10 October.
Tweet/Video of the Week
🇪🇬 👑  I’m sure you’ve already seen it by now but here’s a slo-mo video of Mo Salah’s brilliant goal for Liverpool against Manchester City last weekend. Poetry in motion, as the tweet says.
What We're Reading
🤸‍♀️  Simone Biles, widely considered the greatest gymnast of all time, shocked the world when she pulled out of five finals at the Tokyo Olympics in August because of mental health issues. Or, in gymnastics, what is known as having “the twisties”. In an interview with New York magazine, Biles opened up about what she went through in Tokyo.
Share this edition

That’s all from this inaugural edition of Moneyball. I hope you found it worth your while on a Friday evening. Please write to me at [email protected] with any feedback, suggestions, questions, or FPL tips. Until next Friday.

If you want to share this edition, the link is below. Or you can just tap on the buttons below. 
Take care.
A weekly newsletter that often deconstructs but always explains the business of sport from India
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This newsletter has been discontinued. But you can read The Stack which includes our newsletters around cleantech, fintech, personal finance and e-commerce in India!