World Kabaddi League shifts finale from Mohali to Lahore, cancels Mumbai leg

Birmingham: Trying hard to make an impression in its inaugural season itself, the Wave World Kabaddi League has shifted its grand finale from Mohali to Lahore but has cancelled its Mumbai leg fearing political controversies due to the presence of a Pakistan-based team on the roster.

The organisers have re-jigged the schedule of the eight-franchise tournament, which kicked off in London last weekend and is planning to cover three continents before its December 14 final.

"The final has been shifted from Mohali to Lahore. The decision was taken after we got an invite from the Pakistan government. We are working out the modalities," WKL CEO Raman Raheja told PTI in an interaction here.

"We understand the issues involved in having a final in Lahore but we are assuming that things will be fine for us to hold a smooth final and open the league to a very big market. Lahore is a good venue and I am sure we will have a colourful finale," said Raheja when asked about the security concerns in the strife-torn country.

"We are seeking government clearance and I am sure it will come along without much hassle," he added.

The other bit of rejigging done to the original calendar has been to move the Mumbai leg to Delhi and the New York leg to Sacramento.

"Mumbai is out for now because of the Pakistani team. We want to keep the controversies out. Although we are not anticipating trouble but given that the schedule is so tight, we cannot afford to have any last-minute glitches due to any minor event," Raheja said.

The Lahore Lions, representing Pakistan at the event, are apparently apprehensive about travelling to Mumbai due to the possibility of protests by some political outfits given the blow hot blow cold Indo-Pak diplomatic ties.

Raheja said the decision to shift the New York leg to Sacramento was based on logistics. "We thought it was more feasible to have two weekends in Sacramento because it`s a huge contingent we are travelling with. It is convenient for everyone involved," he explained.

The stadiums have not exactly been packed in the first two weekends but Raheja said the WKL`s primary target was to ensure good TV ratings for the event.

"The TV ratings have been good in all parts of India and this is what we had been targetting to start with. Not just Punjab, even states like Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have generated good viewership for the league and as the tournament progresses we are hopeful of the in-stadia increasing as well," said Raheja.

Asked if the sparse crowd at the stadiums was a fallout of WKL being a ticketed event during international stopovers, Raheja disagreed. "I don`t think it was a bad idea to have it ticketed at international venues. I am sure as the TV viewership increases, the in-stadia crowd will also increase in the coming seasons," he said.

The absence of high-profile team owners, like Bollywood stars Sonakshi Sinha (United Singhs) and Akshay Kumar (Khalsa Warriors), from the matches have not gone unnoticed but Raheja said the bigwigs will attend the games during the India leg.

"They will be around to ensure that the league has its share of glamour quotient" he said.

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