Huge franchise fees and a seven-figure media deal for a new competition in India represent one of the biggest investments ever in a women’s sport
By Mike Jakeman
Jan. 26, 2023
Even for a country familiar with jaw-dropping valuations for cricket teams, the numbers are remarkable: At a hotel in Mumbai on Wednesday, an auction for five teams in a new Indian women’s cricket league produced one of the biggest one-day financial injections in the history of women’s sports.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India, the governing body of one of the sport’s powerhouse nations, announced that the five new teams, which will comprise the nascent Women’s Premier League when it takes place in March, were sold to local investors for a combined price of more than $570 million.
The size of the deals was the biggest headline: The average price of the teams ($114 million) dwarfed valuations in more established American leagues like the W.N.B.A., based on recent sales, and signaled the lucrative potential of the women’s game in the world’s richest cricket market. It also made the Women’s Premier League the latest test case for women’s competitions attempting to attract audiences and sponsors, and drive profits, comparable with the most lucrative men’s tournaments. Top women’s cricketers could be the first to benefit: They can most likely expect salaries to reach new highs when the teams stock their rosters at an auction next month.
“Today marks a new era where our women cricketers will get the platform they deserve to thrive, excel and develop on the global stage,” the Indian women’s star Harmanpreet Kaur wrote on Twitter. “I’m sure you’ll be mesmerized by the talent we have!”
In the creation of the Women’s Premier League, the B.C.C.I. has followed the same playbook it used 15 years ago, when it sold eight franchises for a men’s competition, the Indian Premier League, to private investors.
The I.P.L.’s popularity has since revolutionized how cricket is played and watched by popularizing the television-friendly, three-hour Twenty20 format of the game. It also has attracted nine-figure investments from a diverse group that includes Indian billionaires, overseas private equity groups and global media giants.