Modi says stakes getting higher in IPL

The Indian Premier League commissioner hints at major interest for two new franchises including "one of top three" Premier League clubs in UK.

The Indian Premier League chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi has reported "phenomenal" levels of interest in the League's two expansion franchises amid reports linking a leading UK football club with a bid. Modi hinted earlier in a media report that a famous Premier League side, perhaps "among the top three", has evinced interest. He ruled out Chelsea though while a official of club Manchester United and Manchester City denied any involvement. Arsenal and Liverpool's financial health would not encourage the prospects of them buying into a franchise in an auction where the base price itself would be very high. The IPL in December confirmed the addition of two new franchises for the 2011 edition of the world's biggest Twenty20 cricket competition, bringing the League up to 10 teams.

The two new franchises for 2011 onwards will be sold at auction before the third IPL season begins on March 12. A price of US$225 million per franchise has been set as the minimum base bid price for the new teams, more than double that paid for the most expensive team in the initial auction in January 2008. The manufacturing giant Reliance Industries had secured the most expensive franchise as the Mumbai Indians went for $111.9 million. Yet Modi justified the price by saying: "To be frank the response to acquire the two new franchises has been quite phenomenal. "We have had over 30 people evince interest within the first few weeks of announcing the sale of the two teams. For now I can tell you that inquiries are pouring in from film stars, industrialists, NRI's (non-resident Indians) and also a substantial number of foreign organisations.

"Thus, as you can see the Indian Premier League is only set to grow from strength to strength and evolve further as one of the best modern day innovations in global sport." The IPL announced a hugely significant deal with YouTube last month furthering its global reach, and reports now suggest that figures of up to $600 million may be commanded for the League's ninth and 10th teams. There is believed to be a strong interest from America-based parties as well. Modi added: "The response only reiterates the fact the Indian Premier League's expansion will benefit our goal to popularise the sport and increase the fan base for cricket in India and the world."

Lalit Modi has also denied reports that Deccan Chargers may refuse to defend the title because they are unhappy over a switch of venues for their home matches for security reasons. Several Indian newspapers have said that a law firm acting for the team had issued a legal notice stating that Modi's decision to switch its matches from Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam to other cities violated its franchise agreement. Hyderabad is in the middle of a raging crisis over the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh state and which has seen many suicidal deaths in protests. But Modi said on his Twitter page: "Reports that DC will not play or xyz may not - please ignore such news. All IPL teams will participate. You have my assurance on that." * with staff and agencies