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Knights and the art of emotional connect

The emotional connect of a franchise sport team like the Kolkata Knight Riders with its fans is what sustains it, feels Venky Mysore, the MD and CEO of the squad that is doing Calcutta proud in IPL-V.

“I used to support the Washington Redskins, an American football team, during my student days in the US. My emotional connect with that team became so strong that even now I watch its games that are shown on TV and bought a Redskins jersey for my daughter right after she was born,” said Mysore.

“That’s what a strong emotional connect does. When you enter Washington DC, you know you are in Redskins territory and I hope it’s the same with Calcutta and the KKR some day.”

Mysore was speaking at the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Friday on the “business of cricket” as a part of its “Think” series of lectures, presented by Black Dog, in association with The Telegraph.

The KKR, which had struggled in the first three editions of the IPL, has done much better since then. After Mysore came on board in October 2010, the Knights made the play-offs for the first time and look set to improve their record this year.

Shah Rukh Khan’s team also became the first IPL franchise to break even and record a profit (of Rs 14 crore) this March.

Mysore said the entire team was very pleased that the Eden Gardens was filling up for each and every match, especially after thin attendance in the first few home games last year.

“Last year, the team was brand new and Sourav Ganguly was a factor but after we started doing well our supporters started coming back to the ground,” he said. “I sometimes joke with the other franchises about the Eden capacity. If the number of spectators who attend their home matches turned up at the Eden, the ground would be half or 60 per cent full.”

Ticket sales fill up the franchise’s coffers, he said, though a portion of the collection has to be shared with the Cricket Association of Bengal and Calcutta police. Money also comes from sharing of broadcast revenue, a portion of which goes to the Indian cricket board, sponsorship and sale of merchandise. Whatever is left after paying about Rs 45 crore to the players is the franchise’s profit.

The franchise, Mysore said, has tied up with an apparel company that sells KKR shirts, key chains, refrigerator magnets and pays the Knights royalty.

Talent spotters or scouts spread across the globe, who inform Mysore about untapped talent, can save the team a lot of money. “This way, we were able to unearth James Pattinson last year. After IPL-IV, he went on to play for Australia in all the three formats. We had requested that he be included in the auctions and picked him at his base price of $100,000. And this year we got offers of $600,000 for him — that would be a straight profit of $500,000,” said Mysore.

Similarly, South African “farm boy” Marchant de Lange was picked up this year for $50,000 acting on a tip by an Australian coach, and is troubling batsmen with his raw pace.

In response to a question, Mysore, who has 25 years of experience in business and industry, of which 21 years was with MetLife insurance, also touched upon the “business decision” to exclude Sourav Ganguly, and thus his fan base, before the 2011 edition.

“While mulling such a trade-off, it’s important to feel the pulse of the fans and there are scientific analytical procedures to help you. You could also study how other teams have handled similar situations. Finally, your concern also is how much you are paying the particular player and what else you could do with that money,” said Mysore.