I love watching the IPL but have no interest at all in who wins, which is strange for me because as a rule I don’t watch sport unless I actually want one team (or individual) to win.
I am very much a late comer to the whole IPL ‘thing’. I was aware of it during our years in Spain but never felt inclined to watch it. It was only really last year during the COVID-19 pandemic that I watched a lot of the rescheduled 2020 tournament that I got into it.
My ‘thing’ with sport is that I have to have an interest in who wins in order to watch: I always enjoyed playing tennis, but it doesn’t bother me which pro wins a tournament so I never watch it. I played a lot of golf in the past, and would watch Faldo, Woosie, Monty, Tiger, and before that Nicklaus, Player and Palmer because I wanted them to win. I still watch the Ryder Cup because I want ‘us’ to win, but as the years roll by I struggle to recognise more than a handful of the players.
Living in Hull until I was 13 my father and I had season tickets for Hull City, and whilst I couldn’t name one player in the current team, my eye is still drawn to their results and I will watch them if I realise they are playing.
With the IPL though, it makes mo difference which team it is: I always like to see Smith and Warner fail, I like to see Kohli bat, but on a losing team. I don’t care which Curran brother wins, but I like to watch then play against each other and hope they both do well. Bairstow v Stokes? Don’t care, just like to see them play well ditto Williamson, Gayle, Dhoni, de Villiers, Rahul et al.
In many ways it is about earning loyalty.
I have a loyalty to Hull City, Manchester United, Yorkshire Cricket, because they have been part of my life for pretty much as long as I can remember, and they were all introduced to me by my parents who took me to games, to both play and watch.
I have decided to be loyal to Warwickshire as they are the closest County team to us and so Sandra, my parents and myself are members. I will go to the County Games, the One Day Games, the T20 Blast and all the internationals at Edgbaston to support them. Both Sandra and I donated last seasons membership and bought the commemorative one day shirt with our names on. I have bought by parents a WCCC and Bears jacket for the chilly T20 nights, and I have a WCCC Polo Shirt, because I support them. Same goes for Yorkshire County Cricket Club (donated membership and bought polo shirt) and Manchester United (renewing Season Ticket and bought a polo shirt).
I did this because a) I wanted to as a thank you for being part of my life for so long and b) because I wanted them to be around for many years to come.
It has never crossed my mind to buy an IPL shirt as a) I have no interest in any specific team and b) how do you get behind and support a franchise when you have no affinity with the place and the players are (through circumstance) mercenaries chasing the highest fee (no blame implied) and likely to be dumped on a whim at any time.
The IPL is so huge it does not really need long term loyalty: it has such a large global audience that it only requires a small percentage to engage with it for a few seasons before they are replaced by the next cohort. There is nothing wrong with that at all. It is a sound commercial model without doubt, but it is not one that requires or expects loyalty. How can it when it it has no loyalty: if it decides to release a player who is subsequently picked up by another franchise how can that club complain when a fan of that player switched sides as well. The IPL doesn’t lose out – still sells a players shirt to the fan, and the teams don’t lose out as the incoming players bring a new shirt buyer with them. The merry go round continues, the commercial train caries on because they have that one vital retail ingredient: volume!
And so to The Hundred which doesn’t know what it is. It most certainly is not a club to get behind as we are used to and understand in this country “Milwall till I die”, member for life, sat in the same seats with my father and now sit in them with my son …..
Nor does this country have the volume of the IPL to offer it, or the relationship with franchising, and let’s be honest with such a huge percentage of the revenue coming from match day sales – beer, burgers and merchandise I struggle to see how the lack of natural loyalty will help merchandise sales and the fact that there are only 8 grounds means travel i.e drink/driving is going to put a strain on that side of the revenue model.
Time will tell. I await the outcome with a vague interest as I really do not care at all about The Hundred. Unlike the IPL it will not be a nice filler on a cold April afternoon. If the sun shining I will be outdoors either playing, practicing or talking cricket over a beer or two.