The Bangladesh Premier League’s (BPL) planning and professionalism have often come under fire owing to a lack of organisation. Comilla Victorians are the most successful franchise in BPL history, and they arrange themselves better than others to field a star-studded BPL squad. Their success is mirrored in how the franchise operates their commercial strategy, however the franchise also has issues with the financial model used by the BPL. Comilla Victorians owner Nafisa Kamal discussed whether the BPL has been a profitable venture, issues with the tournament’s branding, Comilla Victorians’ brand value, a desire for women’s franchise cricket, and, most importantly, the owner’s belief that the franchise will not continue in the next BPL due to the lack of a revenue-sharing model.
Q. Why are Comilla Victorians practicing in Masco?
Nafisa Kamal (NK): We have to practise at Shakib Masco since it is more convenient for distance and communication. Our coach is also from there. The problem with Cumilla [district] is that communication has not improved much, which is why we are unable to play BPL matches there. However, we have already obtained clearance for the stadium and hope that future BPL matches will be played there. The designs for the area, location, construction, and stadium architecture have all been accepted. It’s a brand-new stadium in our electoral district of Lalmai. It will have a capacity of 30,000 people, and everything has been cleared by the former minister, [Zahid Ahsan] Russel bhai. We will now approach Papon bhai to have it approved as soon as possible. Travelling there is still tough, although hotels are available. It is entirely our duty, and we will take care of it.
Q. Are home and away matches in the BPL conceivable, or do broadcasting and logistical issues prevent such plans?
NK: Not necessarily. There are three stadiums in Sylhet, Chattogram, and Dhaka. We may assign teams to be at home and away for a certain length of time, rotating between venues. I learned today that the PSL has become the third-highest revenue maker among franchise leagues. The IPL comes first, followed by the Women’s Premier League, which is under the IPL. We launched BPL a long time ago, and PSL is still a new competition. Despite our large population, we continue to lag behind in broadcasting. It’s tough to acknowledge how far behind we are. Comilla does not yet have a stadium or excellent communication, but we may utilise the three stadiums for both home and away matches.
You won’t believe it, but if we were granted ticket selling privileges, no ticket would go unsold if we had 50% of the ticket sales. BCB does not provide us any rights, including media or ground rights. We realise we have supporters and audiences, but we can’t offer them only one out of ten percent. The way a franchise tournament should work on paper, in idea, is completely unsuitable for the BPL. We do not get any of the rights that a franchise should have.
Q. You invest a lot of money, but do you see a return on investment?
NK: It is impossible to do BPL out of love. We do our job out of love. Putting forth additional effort and working harder than the rest of the teams. We get responses [from sponsors] because we operate professionally. When clients invest in our team, they see the results every day. We do not operate the team out of our own wallets; doing so is a really bad idea. It absolutely depends on our sponsors. If our balance the following day after the BPL matches our spending and what we received from sponsors, it would be extremely beneficial to us. We may spend somewhat more on occasion, but not by much. Our workforce is well structured and professional. I arrived late to the workplace since I had a meeting with the three sponsors today. We operate a franchise, which serves as a marketing and branding tool. We have to repay what they have put in us. Every year, we welcome Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, and Moeen Ali. We have the best internationals. That is how we market it to sponsors. For example, Orion Group is constantly with us because they see a return [on investment]. Our company is founded on sponsorship. They employ the players for advertising and branding. BPL is broadcast in 54 countries, and advertisers get publicity in those markets. None of the other franchises in the BPL operate in the same manner. Even BCB does not find sponsors. I asked a few BCB employees about a potential sponsor from India. I informed them that if we are successful, we may pass it on to the BCB. Sponsors respond to us because they see value in their investment.
Q. Have you earned a profit from BPL?
NK: It’s ideal for us if the balance [investment and spending] is equal at the end of the day. Why would we mislead about profits? But we have never turned a profit.
Q. Do personal relationships important in sponsorships?
NK: No, it would be incorrect to claim that my father was an MP and that is why we received sponsors. My father is no longer an MP, but we continue to have the same sponsors. Cricket is all about professionalism, and some people are willing to react to that professionalism. But we don’t approach them in that manner. Our sponsors, such as Orion and Walton, want to support cricket because they see a return.
Cricket is Bangladesh’s most effective marketing tool. So why wouldn’t they want to come to cricket? Our responsibility is to develop that business model.
Q. The title sponsors vary each year. Does this reduce the brand value of the franchises and the tournament?
NK: How does it not hamper? Our endeavour would have been simpler if BPL had a strong brand value in the market. Or BCB had a steady sponsor for ten years. It would be easy to contact sponsors. The BPL is yet to secure a title sponsor [an announcement is expected on Wednesday]. If you look into it, our partnership with Orion Group generates more revenue than BPL’s title sponsor. Maintaining such a level of professionalism is critical to our success.
Q. What benefits do sponsors gain from Comilla?
NK: For example, Orion Group is the sponsor, thus Andre Russell is wearing an Orion Group shirt and supporting them. He needs to mention it everywhere. His look, recognition, and face worth are monetary and sales-related. After sponsoring the Comilla Victorians, the company’s revenues have increased. We keep track of this as well as player financial worth. What is the player’s financial worth, and what do sponsors expect from him? These are issues that we must constantly consider. If a player does not provide value, we will not keep them.
Q. Do players regularly overlook their franchise’s social media duties?
NK: They’re accustomed to that since they play in the IPL and PSL. It’s completely usual for them. Narine, Moeen, and Russell of Rashid Khan were contacted by two and three [BPL] clubs because they are talented players. However, they will not switch teams since it would reduce their brand value. The world is preoccupied about branding, and so are they. It’s like, ‘If we aren’t brought to the BPL, we won’t play, but if we do, it will only be for Comilla.’ Branding is quite crucial.
Q. Are you able to attract sponsors because of your franchise’s success?
NK: It’s not all commercial; there’s also an organic aspect. I’ve been able to continue my father’s job. Our dedication to cricket is real, which is unusual. Perhaps people sense this and come to us. We have been able to maintain our professionalism. My father instilled in me a sense of professionalism and enthusiasm. Comilla Victorians are the result of combining these two.
Q. When was the last time revenue-sharing was discussed?
NK: I’ve forgotten when they last dined with us. This year, I simply instructed them to schedule a meeting and sit face to face, but that did not happen.
I asked one individual when the BPL will begin, given that the PSL begins on February 17th and the IL [International League T20 UAE] on February 19th.So Moeen, Sunil, and Russell had asked me whether BPL had been verified. We were unsure if BPL would be confirmed. So we invited them [BCB] to meet with us and brainstorm ideas for the optimal scheduling. That did not happen, which was sad. Rangpur Riders and Comilla are major stakeholders. How could they not sit? PSL did not disclose the date until after all of the teams agreed. These little acts of respect were not shown. As a BPL owner, I have not had any meetings with BCB. There was just one time, and it was quite inconsequential.
Q. Would more planned scheduling help the team grow?
NK: Which players are on our side? Those that participate every year yet are unable to find new participants.
Q. Was it discussed with franchises previously that the BPL would begin on January 19th?
NK: No. It was sent to us. It’s really tough without dates or anything. One player’s travel had already been scheduled, but owing to a date change, he would not be able to go, resulting in a loss of seven lakh.
Q. Is it due of their ego?
NK: They do it entirely for ego. The trouble is, maybe I am too much for them. My reasoning and passion are too strong (for them).
Q. Franchisees invest money to compete in the BPL, therefore why should this happen?
NK: I’m not sure whether I’ll do the BPL next year. I don’t believe it will be feasible for me at the current rate of progress. I wanted to have a meeting. Last year, after winning the championship at the press conference, I requested a meeting with the owners of Rangpur and Chattogram. Dhaka will sit. Everyone deserves equal respect since they are all investing.
Q: What is the future of BPL?
NK: What is the future of the BPL if Comilla Victorians do not play in it? It may be a different kind of BPL, which you will understand once the game begins, since Comilla will be on one side and the other teams on the other.
Q. What changed this season that makes you want to leave next season?
NK: There is a significant difference between previous times and today. This was a challenging moment for us, and I needed to concentrate on other aspects of my life.
Q. Will you be in BPL if income is not shared?
NK: Definitely [I will not be remaining in the BPL]. Ticket rights, ground rights, and media rights are the three items. We will be quite flexible in this respect [income sharing], and we are happy to offer whatever is best for them; if they give the least, that is OK, but let the process begin at least.
Q. What are your expectations from the BPL?
NK: We want to become champions. Because I recovered money from my sponsors, I want to be champs. Cricket is now my entire concentration.
I will advise the other franchises to conduct the BPL more properly, and I believe that women’s franchise cricket.
Q. Are you considering joining BCB at any point?
NK: I’m still not willing. I did not show respect till Papon bhai arrived, and I will observe convention as long as he is around.
Q. Do you intend to serve as BCB president?
NK: I’m not the BCB president, but I want to work in Bangladesh cricket. I’ve worked with Comilla Victorians and now wish to work with Bangladesh Cricket.