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3-min read

Olympic Stars Pull Out, 2 Teams Say Goodbye: Why PBL Still Thinks It is 'Trending Upwards'

Premier Badminton League 2020 will be missing some of its biggest stars and two teams in Delhi Dashers and Ahmedabad Smash Masters.

Abreshmina Sayeed Quadri | News18 Sports

Updated:November 27, 2019, 6:51 PM IST
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Olympic Stars Pull Out, 2 Teams Say Goodbye: Why PBL Still Thinks It is 'Trending Upwards'
Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal will not be in PBL 5 (Photo Credit: PBL/News18)

New Delhi: The Premier Badminton League (PBL) Season 5 is set to take place from January 20, 2020 to February 9, 2020 with a total of seven teams and without some of the biggest stars in Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth, Carolina Marin and Viktor Axelsen.

Despite the obvious misses, the organisers of the PBL, Sportzlive, do not think the league is actually at a loss and believe that PBL is capable of standing on its feet.

"It was contractually not possible (to give an Olympic year break) because we have a five-year contract with Star and embedded contracts with team owners. To defer the league, all of us have to agree," Atul Pande, Managing Director Sportzlive told News18.com.

"We also believe the league has to stand on its own. You see all the big leagues in the world, they co-exist with the Olympics. The nature of badminton is such that Olympics is a huge thing but if the league also becomes a big part, that issue will be addressed. Also eventually if you are able to build a good relationship with BWF, this could also become a part of the Olympic qualifiers. If it is good enough, it could become a standard BWF tournament," he added.

The company's Executive Director Prasad Mangipudi added, "We also feel the league is big enough to attract the fans and everyone is habitual of the league taking place this time of the year. Fans are also looking forward, so are the sponsors."

When the PBL Auction took place in New Delhi on Tuesday, a number of big names were missing. PV Sindhu and Tai Tzu Ying were the two biggest stars to have put their names in the auction while Indian stars in Chirag Shetty, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Parupalli Kashyap were also in the mix. But the list pretty much stops there.

However, Pande revealed that "the entire Korean and Danish teams" wanted to come for the PBL but it was due to their respective federations that they could not be a part of the tournament.

"Anders Antonsen wanted to come but the Danish federation told him to come for a week and train with them. For the team owners then, it doesn't make sense to have a player for half the tournament. Some of that stuff is evolving," Pande said.

HOW WILL THE CONFLICT BE SOLVED?

Pande further said that Sportzlive and the Badminton Federation of India (BAI) are in the process of increasing the value of PBL in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) calendar.

"We are in talks with them (BWF) for this (PBL) to become a part of their embedded calendar, that's the first step. So now, we get four weeks every year," Mangipudi said.

He further explained that for the players and the sponsors (due to Christmas and New Year), the organisers were even able to shift PBL from December to January and that the BWF conceded to their request and and that shows that the world federation is also "realising the importance of this".

GOODBYE TO DELHI DASHERS AND AHMEDABAD SMASH MASTERS?

This year PBL is not only missing some of its biggest stars, but also two teams - Delhi Dashers and Ahmedabad Smash Masters. Delhi Dashers, formerly known as Delhi Acers, had won the league's first season (in its current name and format) in 2016 while Ahmedabad had joined the roster just a couple of seasons ago.

Pande told News18.com that Delhi Dashers was discontinued because their owners, Dalmia Cement, "did not feel it was one of their core business" after "explore sports" for a few years.

Ahmedabad Smash Masters, on the other hand, had their license cancelled after they failed to fulfill their financial obligations.

"He (Ahmedabad Smash Masters owner) did not pay his license fees so we had to terminate it. We are looking on a team from Ahmedabad and we are very close to signing one and we are probably announcing before this season begins for the next season," Pande said.

Pande and Mangipudi explained that they were in no hurry to close down on any team because they were looking for owners who were actually serious about the project.

"We are trying to help the teams to bridge the financial gaps and Ahmedabad was trying to address the issue but couldn't. We knew around July, August that he won't be able to continue so we have been in the market but we also wanted to give him a fair chance," Pande added.

Mangipudi further said that they didn't want to get a team "just for the sake of filling up the numbers" and instead want owners who can "elevate the league".

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