Watch | Rich League, ‘Poor’ Players: IPL Stars Are Actually Underpaid

While the biggest leagues in other sports like basketball, baseball, football and hockey pay at least 50% of their revenue to players, the IPL only pays 18%.

The Indian Premier League or IPL is regarded as the richest cricket league in the world. Top cricket players earn salaries that would have been unimaginable even a generation ago. During IPL auctions, huge sums of money are spent on selecting cricketers. Yet, the league pays only a small portion of the revenue to its players, a report by Telegraph UK says. 

The report states that, in total, IPL pays 18% of its total revenue to the players, which is lower than what even the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) pays. An ESPN analysis found that the BCCI pays 26% of its gross revenue every year to its players.

But Telegraph UK reports that the “basic rule” – that players will earn at least half of the league’s revenue – does not apply to the IPL. Analysis shows how the biggest football league in the world, the English Premier League pays 71% of the total revenue to its players. Whereas the baseball, basketball, ice hockey and rugby leagues in the US pay their players 54%, 50%, 50% and 48% respectively of the total revenue.

Each IPL franchise is expected to make at least £53 million in 2023, out of which only £9 million would be spent on players. The result of this disparity is felt by players at the lower end of the pay-scale. For example, while celebrated English all-rounder and World Cup winner Ben Stokes will earn £1.6 million, other Indian domestic players will earn far less. Surya Kumar Yadav, one of the top batsmen in the world today, earned only around £10,000 in the 2011 and 2012 seasons of the IPL. 

Having said that, even the high-earning Ben Stokes earns far less than what Marcus Rashford earns at English football club Manchester United or what LeBron James gets paid by the NBA team Los Angeles Lakers. American players have their own player unions through which they also play an administrative part in the game, not allowing the owners to dictate the sport. 

The Telegraph report says the reason for IPL not matching the payment standards of other sports league is due to two fundamental reasons: One, that there is no other cricket league of IPL’s monetary stature and two, that the players do not have any collective say over the affairs. The next big cricket leagues after IPL are South Africa’s SA20 and the UAE’s International T20 League. Both leagues are either fully or partially owned by IPL franchise owners. Meaning, the IPL can directly influence other leagues that could be competitors in the future. With such an autonomy over the cricket leagues around the world, the IPL can, amongst other things, also control the salaries of the players. 

Although the broadcasting rights of IPL have doubled from the previous cycle of 2018-22 to the current cycle of 2023-27, players’ salaries have stagnated. 

With no say over administrative decisions, players have very less room to demand an increase in salary – unlike their counterparts who play sport in the US. 

Sports economist Stephan Szymanski says, “IPL owners want to set the salary cap at a level which is more attractive than any plausible alternative for players. That’s all that matters. What they don’t want is a strong T20 league to emerge as competitor.”

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