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PBL likely to be back in new avatar by end of this year or early 2025: BAI

Dormant for the past three years following the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Premier Badminton League could see a revival by the end of this year or early 2025, the national federation’s secretary Sanjay Mishra has revealed to PTI.

Mishra said efforts are on by the Badminton Association of India (BAI) to resolve “some internal issues” which were coming in the way of bringing the event back on the calendar.

“Badminton league is important for our players. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been conducted since the 2020 pandemic. There were also some internal issues but those would be solved soon,” Mishra said, without elaborating any further.

“We have spoken to the organisers and asked them to get back in a month or two. So I am hopeful that by the end of this year or early next year, we should be able to host the event,” he asserted.

PBL, organized by SportzLive, had emerged as one of the world’s top badminton leagues with stars like Olympic champions Carolina Marin and Viktor Axelsen, Tokyo Games silver-medallist Tai Tzu-Ying and former World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, participating in the last five editions.

But after the 2020 edition, which was conducted just before the outbreak of COVID-19, the league couldn’t be held. The BAI tried to organise it in December-January of 2022-23 but it didn’t materialise.

“…there was a second wave (of COVID-19) in 2021 and this led to a financial crunch. But we are trying to raise funds and there are a few investors who are interested,” said Prasad Mangipudi, Co-founder of Sportzlive and PBL.

“So, we are hopeful that we will be back in some form or the other by year end or early next year.” A conglomerate of investors has shown interest in organising the PBL. They are in talks with BAI.

“We are interested in working with BAI and Sportzlive to see if we can acquire the property and for this, we are waiting on Himanta sir (BAI head and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma) for the elections to finish,” Arvind Bhat, co-owner of two-time PBL title winner Bengaluru Raptors, said.

“We have invested a lot of money and are yet to see the returns on it. If conducted over a long term, we believe this is a very good league for the betterment of the sport and players.” Around 15 leagues — in sports such as hockey, football, tennis, table tennis, Kabaddi, volleyball, kho kho and even arm wrestling — have been launched in India over the last decade and a half but not all were able to survive over the long term.

The Indian Badminton League (IBL), which was launched in 2013 before being revamped into the Premier Badminton League after a gap of two years in 2016, was one of the first leagues to come up after the now-defunct Premier Hockey League (PHL) and the Indian Premier League (IPL).

“BAI should look at reviving PBL, there is a lot of interest. Get a 21-day or a month’s off from the BWF circuit and if the right management is done, we can do that,” former India chief coach Vimal Kumar said.

“We have super 750, 300 and 100 and challenge events in India but the badminton league gives us real visibility.

“International players have been eager to come here. It will give more exposure to our young players. When PBL was happening, our players like Satwik and Chirag got exposure. Badminton has grown, there are a lot more players, coaches and money in the sport now,” he explained.

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