India's multi-city badminton league, Premier Badminton League, wants to be a must-stop destination for all shuttlers, including big names from all over the globe in the coming years, according to its Governing Council member Prasad Mangipudi.
The ongoing season of PBL, played across five legs, has attracted some of the big names in the sport, including reigning Women's singles Olympic champion Carolina Marin, Jan O Jorgensen, Viktor Axelsen and Malaysia's top-ranked doubles star Goh V Shem and Wee Kiong Tan among others.
The star-studded field, consisting eight Olympic medallists with 17 Olympic medals between them, has garnered huge support from the badminton fans in the country. Rivalry between Marin and local stars PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal has been much-talked about and the Spaniard has reigned supreme so far in the league, which is currently in its fourth leg in Bengaluru. (See full schedule)
Prasad, who is also the Executive Director of Sportzlive, who are organising the second season of the badminton league, spoke exclusively to IBTimes Singapore about the league's future plans. He said PBL will head to new destinations, including Singapore and Dubai, in the coming years. He also talked about how the brand is experimenting with new formats, including the 11-point scoring system, which the Badminton World Federation (BWF) is mulling to implement in international tournaments as well.
Q: Will PBL have new destinations in future? How is it going to tap audiences outside India?
Prasad: We certainly can look at Dubai and Singapore. In both the cities we have a good Indian diaspora. We will have ready audience there and the game is quite popular there as well. They are not too far from here as well. We see an opportunity for us there. But again, it all boils down to the available. We certainly want to make the league global.
We are planning to telecast the ties outside India as well through both TV broadcast and online streaming platforms. Already a lot of fans in foreign countries want to see their stars in action.
We are looking to bring in more top names as well. We have eight Olympic medallists this year and as the league expands, there will be room to bring in more names. It is a lucrative league and in the coming years, we want to make it the "must-play league" for all top players.
Q: Is PBL's experiement with 11-point scoring system a part of BWF's initiative?
Prasad: Our primary goal is to make this league as exciting as possible for the audience. We see it as a sports product. This can actually make the game more popular, bringing in more audiences. Anyway BWF was talking about it. So we thought why not give it a try.
Everybody has to fight for every point. The game will become much more intense. Irrespective of what BWF does, we are trying to go with the 11-point system unless there is a massive backlash, which has not been the case so far.
Q: Are there plans to expand the league to more cities acorss the country?
Prasad: More cities should be included. For a country like India, six cities is less. More players will start coming into it, more academies will be coming up if we expand the league.
It all depends on the window available to us as well. Unlike a game like cricket, badminton has tournaments every week, the calendar is packed. But by next year, we are planning to add more cities. We are planning to request the BWF through Badminton Association of India (BAI) to have an extended window for the league.
Notably, the president of BAI, Akhilesh Das Gupta, has already announced that PBL will and try and have two more teams. We are working in tandem to get a bigger window.
How do you think PBL is helping youngsters?
Prasad: Exposure for Indian youngsters in the league has been good. Young players are getting a chance to rub shoulders with big names and are playing in front of huge crowds, year after year. There is a chance for youngsters to share the dressing room, observe the tactics and even diet plans of big names. We have been having foreign coaches as well.
Badminton is a global sport and India is among the top countries. We want to package it well and take it to more people. You never know, a kid who comes in to watch a match might as well get inspired and pick up the racket.