The five teams in India’s new women’s cricket league sold for more than $572 million at auction in Mumbai. Three owners of men’s Indian Premier League (IPL) teams—the Mumbai Indians, Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore—won bids to own the women’s teams, alongside coal titan Gautam Adani’s conglomerate, the Adani Group, and investment firm Capri Global. The news was announced Wednesday.
Ahmedabad’s new team, owned by the Adani Group’s sports arm, Adani Sportsline, fetched the highest price at approximately $158 million. Mumbai (which will share an ownership group with the IPL’s Indians in Indiawin Sports) followed at $111 million; the Royal Challengers bid for Bengalru’s women’s team landed at $110 million; JSW and GMR Cricket purchased the women’s team in Delhi for $99.4 million; and Lucknow (owned by Capri Global) went for $92.9 million, all before a single match has been played.
The women’s IPL tournament—which the BCCI, cricket’s national governing body in India, has named the Women’s Premier League (WPL)—will debut in March. It will precede the 2023 IPL season, the 16th iteration of the men’s side.
“This marks the beginning of a revolution in women’s cricket and paves the way for a transformative journey ahead not only for our women cricketers but for the entire sports fraternity,” Jay Shah, BCCI secretary and president of the Asian Cricket Council, tweeted. “The WPL would bring necessary reforms in women’s cricket and would ensure an all-encompassing ecosystem that benefits each and every stakeholder.”
A total of 16 groups reportedly participated in the bidding Wednesday for the five franchises, which sold at significantly higher valuations than most women’s sports teams in the US
The NWSL’s Angel City raised capital in April 2021 at a valuation north of $100 million, a similar playing field to the WPL’s teams, but it remains in a league of its own stateside even as women’s soccer valuations soar. The Washington Spirit was valued at $35 million in Michele Kang’s takeover early last year; Gotham FC raised money at what Sporty first reported as a $40 million valuation from newcomers including Kevin Durant, Sue Bird and Eli Manning. The league’s 14th expansion franchise, which is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks, will likely land upwards of $50 million, and the leading bid for the Portland Thorns reportedly values the three-time NWSL champions at $60 million—still significantly less than what the WPL commanded.
The WNBA raised $75 million last year at a $1 billion valuation that included the league itself and all 12 of its teams. While that topline number implies a valuation somewhere around $70 million for each franchise, no team has sold for close to that total in recent years.
The women’s IPL media rights also recently sold for historic sum. The BCCI’s five-year deal with Viacom 18, which runs through 2027, is worth around $117 million. Shah he said the deal was “massive for women’s cricket.”
The majority (80%) of the league’s media rights money will be distributed to its five franchises, per the revenue-sharing model in place, giving teams a steady income stream from the start.
“The responsibility lies on our shoulders to see to it that the faith that has been deposed on BCCI, we work extra hard to make sure that this Women’s Premier League turns out to be at par with men’s league, if not better,” Arun Dhumal , IPL chairman, he said after Wednesday’s auction. “We take it as a challenge and we will leave no stone unturned to make sure that what we are successful in achieving for WPL what we have done for IPL.”