Interview with Mr. Salman Iqbal – CEO, ARY Digital Network
PAGE: WHAT WAS IN YOUR MIND BEFORE JOINING PAKISTAN SUPER LEAGUE AND TO OFFER HIGHEST BID TO OWN KARACHI KINGS SQUAD?
SALMAN IQBAL: Cricket is an obsession for me and my family as well, you may recall that my father and his elder brother were first to boost cricket in Sharjah in 80s and since then we are promoting cricket within Pakistan and outside the country.
The League matches under the flagship of Pakistan Super League (PSL) was an opportunity for us to sponsor a team and in the current tournament we were determined to invest in Karachi Kings despite a cutthroat competition from major business houses of Karachi. Arif Habib, the Chairman of Arif Habib Group of Companies was also keen to buy Karachi Kings as one of the bidders for owning a PSL team.
The bidding was started from $20 million which went up to $25 million and when I offered $26 million. Arif (Saheb) while realizing my intense zeal for owning Karachi Kings, yet he did not intervene the countdown for my bid of $26 million with the remarks “I cannot discourage this young man by increasing the bid let him relish the joy and happiness of having Karachi Kings team on his plate. He, however, has joined our panel as our sponsor, which is certainly great of him.
PAGE: DO YOU EXPECT THAT THE HUGE AMOUNT YOU HAVE INVESTED FOR OWNING KARACHI KINGS WOULD GENERATE A GOOD REVENUE?
SALMAN IQBAL: Actually it is the beginning of a great cricket scenario, investing $26 million in a team look huge in our context but you see in India price of a team is usually above $50 million while the investors are also making profits on their investment because they are well set and have established the revenue resources.
We in Pakistan are managing within limited resources yet if the PSL goes smoothly we would also be able to make it a going concern. Although my aim is not solely attached to revenue yet this aspect is important and hopefully we may reach at a breakeven at least. The importance of promoting soft image of the country cannot be overestimated as we are suffering from a bad perception of the country, which needs to be addressed at any cost. Through promotion of sports we can unlock the real aesthetic image of Pakistan.
PAGE: WHY DID YOU PREFER TO BUY KARACHI TEAM?
SALMAN IQBAL: Karachi, which is called as mini Pakistan represents not only to the people from all the federating units of the country but being the commercial, economic, industrial and social hub this metropolitan city has the distinction of having a cosmopolitan culture to its credit as you can see people from all corners of the world are living in this city. Unfortunately the persistent law and order situation and rising crime rate since long has distorted the image of the country in general and the loving city of Karachi in particular.
It should be our earnest endeavor to restore our image the peace loving people of Pakistan through promotion of the most popular game of cricket. I am confident that the day is not too far when the world cricket teams would love to play in Pakistan and Karachi.
PAGE: WHAT IS THE STRATEGY IN YOUR MIND TO UPLIFT THE IMAGE OF KARACHI THROUGH SPORTS?
SALMAN IQBAL: It is our endeavor to organize matches at the National Stadium of Karachi and if we are succeeded in puling a crowd of 25000-30000 this would be a great initiative to attract international teams that would pave the way for organizing big sports events at the National Stadium and in other parts of the country.
Realizing the importance of sports as a tool for promoting peace and harmony among different factions of the society, we decided to promote sports, which off-and-on generates national spirit more often than not during hotly contested matches against foreign squads.
In fact we were determined to an attempt for sponsorship of all the five teaming participating in the PSL, however, since the first bidding was invited for Karachi Kings and with blessings of Allah Almighty we succeeded in availing the opportunity of owning Karachi Kings.
PAGE: THERE ARE REPORTS THAT THE RESULTS OF THE INDIAN PREMIER LEAGUE (IPL) ARE USUALLY DESIGNED WHAT ABOUT PSL?
SALMAN IQBAL: Actually, in order to ensure a fair play, the PCB has adopted extremely strict measures, which was never witnessed before and that why two of the players Sharjeel and Khalid were taken to the task.
There is a fool proof monitoring system to watch the activity of every player of the teams from entry and exit points when we go abroad so there is no chance of manipulation in PSL. We are not India; we cannot afford even a small spot on our team under the current situation. Whenever there is an allegation on any Indian team they can change the team but in our case we are not in a position to change teams as it would hurt the entire PSL set up, so there are frequent meetings and interactive discussions to ensure a clean and fair game in the tournament.