IPL bosses face stadium threat
The hosting of India's glitterati for the IPL is causing ructions in South African cricket circles that could see stadium suiteholders at some of the country's most prestigious venues bolt the doors to their boxes for the duration of the tournament.
The problem arises from the IPL's need to accommodate a host of Bollywood stars, Indian VIPs and commercial sponsors for the 59-match Twenty20 tournament starting in Cape Town next weekend. The IPL have held a series of meetings with provincial unions about "taking over" suites to host their special guests. Many suite-holders are up in arms and those at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg will know by Monday whether they can use their boxes during the IPL.
The IPL will inform the Gauteng Cricket Board tomorrow about the status of suite-holders at Wanderers, but CEO Alan Kourie is optimistic a compromise could be made to accommodate suite-holders: "I'm upbeat," he said. "We put forward our recommendations and we don't think we are that far apart."
Nevertheless any compromise could involve a great deal of sacrifice for suite-holders many of whom, in the case of the Wanderers, have owned suites for a decade or more. The Wanderers is due to host eight matches, a semifinal and the tournament's final on May 24.
It is believed the IPL in signing the deal with Cricket SA that brought the tournament to this country, asked for clean stadia, in order to put up their own advertising and that all suites be handed over to them. Suite-holders were to be compensated by being given tickets in the grandstand and a meal.
On Thursday the WP Cricket Association effectively apologised to suite-holders at Newlands for the fact that they would not have first rights on the use of their hospitality boxes for the IPL. "In all our negotiations with the IPL, WPCA has ensured the interests of our suite-holders are paramount.
From the IPL side, they have insisted that, as a non-negotiable requirement for the hosting of the eight matches in Cape Town, they require access to all our suites," the WPCA said in a statement.
The EP Cricket Board were due to meet the IPL yesterday over the use of hospitality suites at St George's Park.
It emerged on Friday that some suite-holders at Newlands and the Wanderers were willing to play hardball and, if not allowed into the stadium during the IPL, would lock up their suites. Many suites are decorated with valuable memorabilia while virtually all contain bar and catering facilites. It is understood that the IPL have charged suite-holders R9 000 per person for use of a suite during matches.
In negotiations with the unions the IPL have apprently threatened to have matches moved to smaller venues and in the case of the Wanderers move the final to SuperSport Park in Centurion. However, such a threat seems to be a thinly veiled one particularly for Newlands, which is already sold out all for the double-header opening next weekend.
If the four matches had to be moved now, that would cause a logistical nightmare for a tournament already beset by problems after the hasty decision to move it here.
In a flimsy statement released late on Thursday, Cricket SA sought to allay fears and said negotiations were underway to solve the problems.
Meanwhile, a major media standoff that saw the world's foremost news agencies, including AP, AFP and Reuters, boycott last year's inaugural IPL over restrictions placed on them has ended in an amicable and significant solution.
Following representations from concerned SA media houses on Thursday, the IPL agreed to revise its media terms and conditions for the current event - and effectively gave the green light for news and photographs to be filed to cricket websites that may compete with the official one.