There was a high drama at the inaugural players' auction for the Indian Badminton League (IBL) Monday as the organisers were forced to change the rules as two of six Icon Players, Ashwini Ponappa and Jwala Gutta, went unsold.
Due to the absence of the women's doubles match, the franchises were not interested in Jwala and Ashwini, a successful doubles pair. The auction closed Sunday.
This prompted the IBL governing council to stop the bidding and reschedule it for Monday, for an open auction. The governing council also halved the base price for Jwala and Ashwini to USD 25,000 and promised to compensate them if they were sold at less than their original base price of USD 50,000.
"We had a closed bidding for all Icons yesterday evening. It went on till late night. None of the franchisees were ready to pick Jwala and Ashwini at that particular price (USD 50,000). So, all six franchisees along with IBL governing council decided that we need to do an open auction by reducing their base prices.
However, since they have signed a contract and we needed to protect their interest, we decided to make sure they get the rest of the amount," said Ashish Chadha, chief executive of Sporty Solutionz, commercial partner of the IBL.
Jwala was sold to Delhi Smashers for USD 31,000 while Ashwini was 'given' to Pune Pistons for USD 25,000 as she was the last one left among the Icons not to be auctioned. The IBL will now compensate Jwala with USD 19,000 and Ashwini with USD 25,000.
"No one was ready to buy the two Icon Players. Actually, by the time women's doubles was dropped from the format, the two had already been signed as Icons. Women's doubles was dropped because of less number of recognisable faces in India in the category.
Also, our men's singles players are doing very good at the moment. By increasing the men's singles, we will allow our singles players to do well here, which was also agreed by the governing council," added Chadha.
Asked if he thought the open bidding was harsh on both, more on Ashwini, Chadha said: "That is something we can't help."