The inaugural edition of the Pro Volleyball League is set for an exciting finish with the Chennai leg commencing from Saturday (February 16), aiming to deliver on the promise of the Kochi leg.
With one semifinal spot still up for grabs and Chennai Spartans, the home franchise, involved on two of the three matchdays before the semifinals, the organisers anticipate good turnouts at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium.
According to data from the Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC), an impressive 14.3 million viewers sampled the league in its opening week on television, while one million viewers watched the matches online — on SonyLIV.
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Speaking to the media, the chief executive of Pro Volleyball League, Joy Bhattacharjya said, “We had an excellent first leg of the Pro Volleyball series. The reaction we got from the people watching the matches at the stadium was exciting. It’s an exciting sport and volleyball has never [before] got its justified place in the sun for so many years,
“We have got a very good first reaction. About 14.3 million people have sampled it in the first week itself, which is extremely large and encouraging numbers, and we are delighted to be here [in Chennai] and to have started really well.”
The scheduling of the league has been uneven, with two-thirds of the matches (including the final) being played in Kochi, and Chennai playing host to only six matches.
Fans in Chennai will get to watch star players like Paul Lotman and David Lee only once or, at most, twice in the final stretch as Calicut Heroes and Kochi Blue Spikers, their respective teams, have played all their league matches and have qualified for the semifinals.
Asked about the scheduling, Bhattacharjya and Ramavtar Singh Jakhar, who is the secretary general of Volleyball Federation of India, were keen to reiterate that the objective has been to establish the league before expanding on it and making it better.
Bhattacharjya said, “It’s the first year [of the Pro Volleyball League]. I think, next year onwards, we would love you to come and watch other teams as well. In year one, it was all about scheduling to make sure the home crowd are there in the maximum number of matches. We wanted to maximise the [number of] matches Kochi played at home, and similarly, Chennai plays here. And that’s why the schedule goes like this.”
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Bhattacharjya and Jakhar also revealed that an all-star women’s match between Team Blue and Team Yellow will be played before the final next Friday (February 22). The women’s match will begin at 5 pm (two hours before the final), with Alexa Strange, a two-time national champion in beach volleyball, leading Team Blue and Marina Cvetanovic, the Slovenian national women’s volleyball team captain, leading Team Yellow.
“It is a milestone moment for us as this will be the first ever women’s all-star match in India for any other sports league, except cricket. Though it is an exhibition match, in the longer run, we want to have a full-fledged women’s volleyball league in place. It is going to be really entertaining for the television audience,” Bhattacharjya added.
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