Putting up the barricades

The IPL will take place on time and according to the schedule, but there are going to be a lot more bruises behind the scenes than most people will be aware of before a ball has even been bowled at any of the eight venues.

Most of the ‘teething’ problems stem from the speed with which the whole tournament package was put together. Too many details were left unclear, too many i’s undotted and t’s uncrossed.

The major problem facing stadiums like the Wanderers, Kingsmead and Newlands is the perception that the rights of the suite holders and season-ticket holders have been violated.

When Gerald Majola concluded the deal with the IPL’s commissioner, Lalit Modi, he did so on the basis that stadiums would be handed over in a ‘clean’ state. Ordinarily that would mean devoid of any advertising and fresh to be exploited by the advertising agents representating the millions of dollars associated with the tournament.

But ‘clean’ meant absolutely scraped bare as far as Modi and his colleagues were concerned, including the private hospitality suites which, in many cases around the country, are purchased by companies for periods as long as ten years. Owners decorate their suites and furnish them with own memorabilia and bar stools. They are, to some extent, no different to an apartment.

But there is an awful lot of entertaining to be done by India’s wealthy elite and they are not keen to back down from what they believe was the ‘deal’ – all suites, and all seats, are to be handed over.

At some venues, like the Wanderers, there may be enough suite owners willing to accept compensation from either CSA, the IPL or even private Indian businessmen desperate enough to entertain their clients during the IPL’s second season.

But at Kingsmead the situation is reaching crisis point with the enormous Indian population unable and unwilling to even contemplate giving up the chance to watch the cream of Indian cricket – and many of the world’s biggest cricket names.

At Newlands the situation is even more serious and is reaching boiling point. Not only is there the problem of suite holders determined to hang onto their asset for the duration of the tournament, but the Western Province Cricket Club members who hold debenture seats in the pavilion have already held and emergency meeting at which they vowed to ‘stick up for their rights’ and fight to keep their seats.

Apparently, as many as 40% of the suites are up for renewal and the majority of lease holders have vowed not to sign again if they are booted out for the IPL. Franchise chief executive Andre Odendaal has already sent out a letter to suite holders promising them seats in the stands and access to a tent where snacks will be served free of charge if they give up their suite. It was a well intentioned gesture but, unfortunately, one that has been viewed as an insult rather than a compromise.

One suite holder told me that he would ‘barricade and padlock’ his suite if he was forcibly prevented from makiong use of it during the tournament. “You can’t change the terms and conditions of something after you’ve sold it,” he said.

Gerald Majola said on Thursday night that he was working on the problem and confident of finding a solution. But with nine days to go before the first matches, nobody could pretend that there was anything but deadlock.

As I said, it will be sorted. But the bruises – both emotional and financial – could be felt for years unless it is sorted amicably, and that seems a long way off at the moment.

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