Pune joins Premier Badminton League; 9 franchises for season 4

Pune (Maharashtra) [India], Oct 06 (ANI): In its endeavour to take the Vodafone Premier Badminton League (PBL) to unprecedented heights and making it a much bigger affair, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) is introducing a new team for the fourth edition of the league.

Pune will join the bandwagon to make the event a nine-team affair from the forthcoming season, which will feature the highest prize money so far.

The Pune team has been baptized as Pune Seven Aces and is owned by popular Bollywood actress, Taapsee Pannu and KRI.

The new addition underlines BAI and its President, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma's philosophy of taking badminton to all the corners of the country as well as making the League the most followed, not just in India but also globally.

Echoing the thoughts, Sarma said, "The number of people getting inclined towards badminton in this country has witnessed a steep rise in the last few years. PBL especially has been instrumental for such a development. The League started off with six teams in Season one and now we have nine franchisees within a span of three years, which is an incredible feat. I am confident we will continue to increase the popularity of the sport and PBL will continue to make waves all across in the future too."

The upcoming season will be held from December 22 to January 13 and will be played across five cities - Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru.

"I have played quite a bit of badminton in my early days and have a special liking for the game. I always wanted to associate myself with the game in a big way and I have found the perfect avenue to express my passion through the League. I am confident that Pune Seven Aces will be a team to reckon with," said Taapsee Pannu, the owner of the Pune team, said after signing her association with the League.

Mumbai will host the opening ceremony of the fourth edition.

"We will see a mix of doubleheaders and single clashes this season as all the nine teams will vie for the crown. The new season will also witness some of our young shuttlers like reigning Junior World Champion Lakshya Sen making his foray into the Elite League. With the auction taking place on October 8, the PBL has opened up new vistas for promising players and will act as a springboard in the development of Indian badminton," said Atul Pandey, Executive Director, SportzLive.

The league, which offers a prize purse of Rs six crore, was an eight-team competition last year with Delhi Dashers (Delhi), Mumbai Rockets (Mumbai), Awadhe Warriors (Lucknow), Hyderabad Hunters (Hyderabad), Chennai Smashers (Chennai), Bengaluru Raptors (Bengaluru) Ahmedabad Smash Masters (Ahmedabad) and North Eastern Warriors (North East) fighting for the top honours. Hyderabad, led by 2016 Olympic Champion Carolina Marin, had triumphed last season.

In Season 3, the league attracted 60 world class players, including nine Olympic medallists and a pool of talented Indian players in the line-up for the league.

With Star Sports as the official broadcaster, the league has registered over 40 million viewers in television audience, besides the following on Hotstar. The biggest boost for the organisers was getting the fans to the stadium and Season 3, that saw a gate revenue of over one crore. (ANI)