Three top US athletes invest in Rajasthan Royals

Foreign investors seem to have developed a liking for cricket’s most marketable product — the Indian Premier League (IPL). Months after CVC Capital Partners, one of the biggest global sports investors, bought one of the two new IPL’s franchises — Gujarat Titans — three athletes from the United States (US) have now invested in one of the oldest franchises — Rajasthan Royals, the winners of the inaugural edition in 2008.

Though the details of the investment haven’t been disclosed, the deal is yet another reminder of the potential of T20 cricket, and the attraction of the IPL, the most popular T20 league in the world, among investors.

The three athletes who have invested in Rajasthan Royals are: National Basketball Association (NBA) team Phoenix Suns’ points guard Chris Paul, National Football League (NFL) side Arizona Cardinals’ offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum and former Arizona Cardinals’ wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

All three have invested individually in the Emerging Media IPL Limited (EMIPL), the majority stakeholder in Rajasthan Royals. The deal was struck in October last year, but Royals received the go-ahead from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) only recently.

“This investment not only signals the high level of interest in the IPL globally but also will provide our franchise with significant learnings from the world of US sport,” Manoj Badale, EMIPL founder and lead owner of Rajasthan Royals, told ET Sport via email.

“At the Rajasthan Royals, we’ve always talked about transforming Indian society through cricket and we’ve also talked about transforming cricket through innovation.

“In order to achieve these targets, we have got to look to where we can learn the most.

“When it comes to the world of sport, whether it’s on-field performance, fan engagement or commercial activities, the US sports leagues are ahead of the rest of the world.”

Cricket is not among the popular sports in the US, but the T20 format is making rapid strides in the country, especially with people from the Indian sub-continent who form a large section of the population now. For years, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has been trying to expand cricket’s footprint in the country and has recently allotted the 2024 T20 World Cup to the US (to be co-hosted with the West Indies).

“Cricket is the second most followed sport in the world with close to 2 billion fans worldwide but there are fans out there who still aren’t being captured,” Paul, two-time Olympic gold medallist, told ET Sport via email.

“For me also to have been involved in the Players’ Union for eight years gave me an opportunity to see business, to see the potential that different sports and arenas hold and the scope for growth that comes with it. What I bring to the table are lessons from the NBA, which I feel we can use to help this growing franchise.”

Unlike the US sports market that has been very crowded for a long time, the Indian sports market is relatively less competitive and has been growing, especially cricket, at a good pace. For those investors who are looking to diversify their portfolio, IPL is becoming a big attraction.

The price paid for the two new IPL franchises last month is a good indicator. CVC Capital, who have interests in top football properties such as La Liga, Spain’s top-flight football league, and previously owned Formula One and Moto GP, paid Rs 5,625 crore for the IPL’s Ahmedabad franchise. Indian industrialist Sanjiv Goenka’s RP-SG Group claimed the Lucknow franchise for Rs 7,090 crore.

“I don’t think anyone expected the IPL to become as big as it has become,” Badale said.

Agencies

“The realization of the size and growth potential of the IPL has invited huge interest from other countries.

“If you compare the number of eyeballs that the IPL gets to the numbers of most of the sports leagues in America, I think our league has certainly developed into a sizable property that has achieved global standing.

“There is also the potential for bigger and stronger financial value in the next cycle of media rights, and I think that also makes IPL attractive. Hence, I was not surprised to see the interest shown by the athletes, and I think it’s certainly something which we will see more of in the coming future, perhaps even from domestic Indian stars.”

Fitzgerald, considered one of the greatest receivers in NFL history, was impressed by Badale’s vision. “India is a huge market with very passionate sports fans, so I jumped at the opportunity to invest privately into one of the most sought-after teams in the country,” he said.

“I strongly believe in the Royals’ and Manoj’s philosophy on how to grow this franchise and expect that together we will challenge the realms of possibility by expanding to new horizons.”

RRAgencies

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