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Pune and Kochi join IPL party from 2011

After the long wait, the announcement has finally been made – the Indian Premier League is to expand to 10 franchises with the addition of the Pune and Kochi franchises from the 2011 season onwards. The financial might of the IPL was on display again on Sunday when Pune and Kochi became the league’s two new franchises, being sold for a value in excess of the original eight franchises combined.

Sahara group which has been sponsoring Team India for the past 15 years successfully won the Pune franchise after they bid the highest amount of US $370 million (Rs 1702 crore), while the Kochi team was won by a consortium, Rendezvous Sports World Limited, for a whopping amount of $333 million (Rs 1533.33 crore), for a period of ten years.

“There were five qualified bids and the bidding was extremely tough,” Modi said. Adani Entreprises and Videocon, the only two bidders at the last auction, which was cancelled by the IPL and fresh tenders, were issued on March 7, lost out this time.

Sahara had highest bids for three cities — Ahmedabad, Pune and Nagpur — but eventually they chose Pune as their franchise.  “When we considered the cities, in terms of infrastructure and logistics, Pune came first,” Abhijit Sarkar, the head of Sahara’s corporate communications, said. “Ït is also close to Mumbai – the commercial capital of India – and Aamby Valley (an upmarket township owned by the Sahara group).”

While Sahara has a long history of sports sponsorship and are a high-profile corporate group, little is known about the winners of the Kochi franchise. It is a consortium with five partners – the Rendezvous group, Parini developers, Anand Shah Estate, Anchor Earth Private Limited and Film Waves. Minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor was involved in bringing the group together, but has no stake in the franchise.

“Tharoor was involved in facilitating and trying to get a team for the state,” Modi confirmed. “He is an ardent fan of cricket and he has been trying to get people from Kochi to bid for it. I think his involvement ends there.”

Speaking to reporters, Shailendra Gaikwad of Rendezvous World Sport said, “We have closely been following every development within the IPL, right from the inaugural year. Today, I am very happy for our consortium of Rendezvous World Sport and the people of Kochi as we finally have a team to call our own in this amazing city-based sports franchise.”

The IPL will now feature 10 teams and – if the current format is retained – a total of 94 games, from the existing 60. After the first season in 2008, the league has already expanded its reach to other centres such as Cuttack, Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Dharamsala.

The franchise auction process was to have been completed on March 7 but was postponed by two weeks after the bidders and the BCCI objected to stiff financial clauses.

By: Ganta Rakesh

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