In a significant development, it has come to light that the BFI-IMG Reliance (‘BFI-IMGR’) deal signed in 2010, to launch Pro Leagues in Indian Basketball, is on the verge of being terminated.

According to reliable sources, senior management within both the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and Reliance, have met in person and explained each side’s standing on the situation so far.

According to the same sources, the 30-year BFI-IMGR deal granting exclusive rights to IMGR to launch and commercially manage Pro Basketball Leagues in India could be cancelled “very soon”. No specific indication has been provided for a timeline for this termination.

bfi-img Reliance, a Troubled Partnership

BFI-IMG Reliance

It is important to note that ‘IMG-R’, the joint partnership that was formed between American sports management company IMG, and Indian business giant Reliance, had frozen its funding to BFI back in 2015 after a faction fight broke out between two rival factions vying for control over the administration of basketball in India.

Thereafter, a cash strapped BFI has been struggling at times to run its many National tournaments, camps and other events, since no rival sponsorship could be sought as long as the deal with IMGR was still in existence.

In recent years, BFI & IMGR have been engaged in a mediation process with an intent to amicably resolve issues. From the latest development, however, it appears that the two entities have decided to formally part ways.

Last December, it was reported that IMG itself has exited its joint venture with Reliance, and has sold all its stake in ‘IMG-R’, making IMG-R a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance. IMGR has since been rebranded as ‘RISE Worldwide’.

Why this development matters to the Indian Basketball Community?

Late BFI CEO Harish Sharma, who was instrumental in signing the deal with IMG Reliance. Image sourced from The Hindu.

The BFI-IMGR deal was one of the crowning accomplishments of the Late BFI CEO Harish Sharma, to usher in long-term professional management & large funding of a global sport like basketball, to India. For the initial years, between 2010-14, crucial funding began pouring into Indian basketball, resulting in better facilities for participating players and teams, especially during the National Championships. At one point, even a remuneration system was introduced for top Indian players based on a grading system. However, Mr Sharma’s untimely demise in 2012 meant that the full long term benefits of the deal were never realized, and Indian basketball slowly slid back to its old ways of non-transparency, non-accountability and lack of professionalism.

The likely termination of the BFI-IMGR deal will allow BFI to approach new sponsors and event/sports management companies to bid for rights to launch and manage 5×5 Pro Leagues in India, as well as School/College Leagues.


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Gopalakrishnan R
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