From the Viewsroom

IPL: The games BCCI plays

Venky Vembu | Updated on August 06, 2020 Published on August 06, 2020

Being tethered to Chinese moneybags comes at a cost

The withdrawal of Chinese mobile-phone maker Vivo as the title sponsor for this year’s IPL cricket tournament accentuates the shadowy games that play themselves out at the intersection of sports and politics. The BCCI had come under pressure to walk away from the big-money sponsorship deal for the annual cricket carnival, in the context of the strains in India’s relations with China, but had proven itself to be feckless in its fidelity to Chinese lucre. Sensing the national mood — with a movement for a consumer boycott of Chinese products gaining traction in India — and the government signalling that Chinese investments were less than welcome, Vivo has walked away this season, while retaining the right to revive the association next year.

It is, of course, a truism to say that politics should not encroach on the sporting arena. But as India’s strained sporting relations with Pakistan have shown over the decades, such feel-good sentiments don’t quite translate well in the real world.

In the same way, even a carnival of sixes such as the IPL this year, would have been a bit of a political hard-sell when the title sponsor hails from a neighbour with whom our armed forces have had a bloody conflict barely two months ago.

An excessive addiction to low-cost Chinese merchandise and to big-money Chinese investments, tends to corrode the economic and moral fibre of nations and individual entities. Sadly, this extends even to the world of sports. The experiences of the NBA, the US basketball league, are illustrative. The NBA has admirably spoken out against racism and police violence in the US (and even against President Donald Trump’s policy towards immigrants). But it has cravenly kowtowed to China, because the merchandise money that franchises make from that country has had a chilling effect on their defence of free speech. If this is what being tethered to Chinese moneybags does to sporting leagues, the IPL is better off untainted by such association — even if the decision was shamefully forced upon it.

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Published on August 06, 2020
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