Indian Premier League partners with AE Live once again for COVID-safe tournament

Unique challenges push IPL out of India

AE Live is working on its eleventh consecutive Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The competition got underway on 19 September with the opening game between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, won by the latter by five wickets.

AE Live is the graphics partner for BCCI and Star India for IPL. BCCI is producing the world feed at the venues and Star India is producing additional language feeds from Mumbai.

As well as a change of date, this year’s tournament is being played outside of India for the first time since 2014, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The tournament was originally scheduled to commence on 29 March 2020 but due to the pandemic was suspended until 15 April, then suspended indefinitely on 14 April when it was confirmed that lockdown would last until 3 May at least.

On 2 August 2020 it was announced that the tournament would be played between 19 September and 10 November 2020 in the UAE. The full fixtures for the tournament were confirmed on 6 September 2020, less than two weeks before the first match was to take place.

Speaking to SVG Europe, Sudeep Saha, AE Live director of business operations, Asia, said: “Although the deliverables for AE Live haven’t changed from last year, this year has been a unique challenge because of COVID.”

AE Live’s services for both clients remain the same as 2019, however since there are only three world feed venues in UAE this year, the number of crews working on IPL has reduced from four to three and the number of kits from eight to nine, down to three.

Said Saha: “Before the start of IPL, BCCI conducts a production meeting with all key stakeholders of the TV production team, BCCI marketing team and events team. Normally this is held at the first venue of the tournament. This year, it was held virtually with people joining in from either their hotel rooms in UAE or from their offices from various parts of the world.”

AE Live is the graphics partner for BCCI and Star India for IPL once again, but this time, with strict COVID restrictions to be considered

AE Live has three crews of five operators providing a range of services for the tournament. They are based at the three venues in the UAE at Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

The crews are delivering world feed match and presentation graphics, on-pitch and Spidercam augmented reality (AR) graphics and big screen content for each match.

Away from the UAE, AE Live also has a further 10 operators based at Star Sports India’s production hub in Mumbai. They are responsible for producing several additional multi-language feeds, including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.

An AE Live Covid Response Team has put in place, enforcing strict social distancing norms based on the Government of India Guidelines for its offices.

Saha commented: “Our engineering and operational teams have worked within those rules to set up and ship equipment for UAE. The travel restrictions and quarantine rules have also kept on changing and the operations team have worked relentlessly to tweak their plans to meet the requirements of the day.”

COVID related rules have been deployed for the tournament. For the BCCI World Feed, staff reached UAE with COVID-negative RTPCR test reports from designated labs in India. In UAE they had to take three more tests in the first week before they could enter the venues. Crews staying in their separate bubbles in UAE and they are not allowed to break the bubble.

Social distancing is being maintained at the venues as well. The PCR at the OB is now spread out in a space that is four to five times bigger than before. For example, AE Live’s scorer is now sitting in a different room to commentators. The statistician is not allowed to pass on chits with information to the commentators.

Other health and safety rules in UAE include: masks have to be worn at all times; packed food is being provided at the venues; regular RTPCR tests are being conducted throughout the tournament.

For the Star India Language Feeds staff, those entering Mumbai from outside the state of Maharashtra had to undertake compulsory 14 days of quarantine. After two negative RTPCR test reports, they were allowed to move around inside the hotel within their floor, and after two weeks’ quarantine they entered were allowed to enter the PCR and studios.

For those living in Mumbai they had to undertake a seven day quarantine in the crew hotel; they are not allowed to leave the hotel for the remainder of the tournament.

People working on a particular floor within the Star office are not allowed on any other floor, and again, regular RTPCR tests are being conducted during the tournament and masks have to be worn at all times.

Some of the rules have also been changed for the 2020 edition of the IPL: Players will not be allowed to use saliva to shine the ball; All the matches will be played without an audience; Captains will not shake hands after the toss; Front foot no-balls will be adjudicated by the third umpire rather than the on-field umpire; Teams will be allowed replacements if a player tests positive for COVID-19.

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