These days, almost every sporting discipline in India aims to emulate the Indian Premier League (IPL). It has been the model that other Indian sports leagues have tried to replicate in terms of the number of teams, duration of the seasons, format, pre-season auction, etc.
The Volleyball Federation of India (VFI) and Baseline Ventures India Private Limited formed the league with six teams, with the matches set to be held in Kochi and Chennai from February 2, 2019.
On Monday, the six teams -- Ahmedabad Defenders, Calicut Heroes, Chennai Spartan, Hyderabad Black Hawks, Kochi Blue Spikers and U Mumba Volley -- were unveiled at a city hotel, and the team owners are confident about the league’s success.
While Thomas Muthoot, the director of Muthoot Pappachan Group and executive director of Muthoot Fincorp Limited, owned the Kochi franchise, Ronnie Screwvala -- who owns the U-Mumba franchise in the Pro Kabaddi League -- bought the Mumbai franchise.
With the six teams on board, the auctions will be held on December 13-14. Each of the six teams will comprise 12 players including two foreigners, one Indian icon player and two Indian U-21 players. The six teams will be fighting it out over a total of 18 matches with each team playing each other once in a round-robin format. The top four teams will qualify for the semifinals.
There will be a total cap of Rs. 75 lakh for the players auction, Joy Bhattacharjya, the CEO, Pro Volleyball League, confirmed.
“We will also do a draft for the foreign players. The idea is to find five, six good players and convince them to come down here. Once we do that, we can get a deal with FIVB and six good players here and fix that money. The teams can just pick (as per order). The second set will be in January and that time, the order will reverse. The idea is to get good foreigners at a good price,” Bhattacharjya said.
But with only two southern cities hosting the league, won’t it miss out on the national flavour?
“We could have done eight teams, but here it is about getting the product right. Play in the strongest market and get the best possible television product,” the CEO said. With Sony Pictures Network (SPN) broadcasting the league, the organisers hope the stakes will rise.
VFI secretary general, Ramavtar Singh Jhakar, also admits that this league will give the players a chance to prove their mettle. “The league will play an important role in development of the sport. This will not only bring in top international talent from across the world but will also give a chance for the emerging talent from India to learn from the best in the business,” Jakhar said.
The VFI had introduced a Indian Volley League in 2011, but that fizzled out just after one season. But now, with some of the big industrial groups joining hands, the new league looks promising.