Nimbus Sport, a part of Nimbus Communications Ltd, announced an Indian Premier League (IPL)-inspired franchise hockey league called the World Series Hockey (WSH). The company entered a 15-year contract with the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), the apex body for hockey to conceptualize, stage and market the hockey series.
WSH promises to feature up to 10 teams in the first year in a city-based model. Nimbus said it will underwrite the cost of the league, as well as provide IHF with an annual fee for the devel- opment of hockey amounting to at least `30 crore during the contract or a share of the league's profits, whichever is higher.
Yannick Colaco, chief operating officer of Nimbus Sport, said WSH franchises will not only pay a fee to the league, but will also commit a fee for the development of hockey to the state associations and fund hockey infrastructure in their respective cities. The firm said it had already signed 37 of the top hockey players in India for the series expected to be held between November-December 2011 and February 2012. Among them are players such as Shivendra Singh, Arjun Halappa, Gurbaj Singh and Adrian D'Souza.
The series will feature as many as 100 matches and up to 250 hockey players from India and around the world. There will be no player auction; the process of player selection will be based on the draft system used by the National Basketball Association in the US.
Harish Thawani, executive chairman, Nimbus Communications, said the hosting and marketing cost of the event would be at least `125 crore a year, most of which would be recovered from rights holders and sponsorship deals. “We are assured of support from corporates and broad casters. There will be a series of announcements shortly, which will prove just how keen corporate India is to make hockey stand at a pre-eminent level.“ The prize money for the series is around $1 million (`4.52 crore).The current advertising and onground spends on hockey are less than `100 crore a year, according to sports specialists, unlike cricket, for which the comparable number is 2,000 crore.
Nimbus' plan may hit a bottleneck as Hockey India and IHF are engaged in a legal battle to determine the certified body for the game with the right to select national players. Indranil Blah, chief operating officer, KWAN Entertainment and Marketing Solutions Pvt. Ltd, said: “Unfortunately, there are differences between the bodies that organize the sport, and it could be a cause of concern for some sponsors. But given the publicity and promotion that Nimbus would put behind the series, there is potential for earning revenue.“ He cautioned that returns may be way lower than in cricket. Mahesh Ranka, general manager, Relay Worldwide, a part of Starcom MediaVest Group, said the move will revitalize the interest in the game, though it would be unfair to compare it with IPL.“ “There would be corporate interest.“ Blah said a similar format had been just as successful for ESPN when it hosted the Premier Hockey League in 2003-04.