CHENNAI: Another day, another league! After cricket, football, badminton, kabaddi and wrestling, it is volleyball’s turn to attempt to capture their slice of India’s sports scene with a franchisebased league. Express had first revealed that the Volleyball Federation of India, in partnership with Baseline Ventures, were planning to start a league by September, a couple of months ago. Now, more concrete plans have come to light. The inaugural season of Pro Volleyball will consist of six teams, the bid documents for which will be released on May 15.
The league will be played across two venues — one in the north and one in the south. As things stand, Kochi is the organisers’ most preferred destination in the south. Several cities are in the fray up north, but Jaipur is the front-runner. The league’s CEO Joy Bhattacharjya — who has been involved in several sporting ventures including the Kolkata Knight Riders and the U-17 World Cup — told Express that the decision to play out of two cities was an attempt to prevent costs from spiralling out of hand. “Our focus for the first season will be packaging the product properly,” Bhattacharjya said.
To be played in September
Six team-league out of two cities, one each in North & South India
Kochi and Jaipur current front-runners to host
Franchise bids to beavailable on May 15
Prominent foreign playersto come and play
Future plans includevenues in more cities and a league for women
Winners will play in the Asian club competition
“By keeping it to two cities, we will be able to focus more on making it look good than the logistics. Also, it will help us centralise most of the logistics costs. That will make it financially viable for owners. The bid amount for the team will be Rs 3 crores and they can expect to have to pump in another Rs 2 crores after that. And there will be revenue streams available to them, like sponsorship.” Bhattacharjya also revealed that talks were on with two major broadcasters but a final decision had not been made. The league has plans to expand to more cities in the coming seasons.
“We also hope to start a women’s league soon,” Bhattacharjya said. The organisers have been in touch with the FIVB (volleyball’s governing body) and other international federations and remain confident that they can attract top spikers. On the sporting side, the biggest lure for teams will be that the winner will qualify for the continental tournament — the AVC Club Volleyball Championship. No Indian team has even participated in the event. “Our main aim is to do for volleyball what the IPL did for cricket,” Bhattacharjya said. “The IPL helped strengthen India’s oneday side.
This league can do the same for volleyball. We are not that far behind — seventh in Asia and in the thirties in the world. If we can get young kids watching on TV to think ‘I can also do this and be on TV’, then that will be great for the future.” This is the second attempt at starting a volley league in India after the failed Indian Volley League in 2011. That league started with six teams — five from South India and one from Maharashtra. However, it folded after just the one season.