India gets serious about football

NEW DELHI: As the India Premier League cricket tournament prepares to start its seventh season, the India Super League (ISL) football competition is getting ready to begin its first with the announcement of eight franchises.

The winning ISL franchises were backed by a mix of businesses and Bollywood celebrities, similar to that seen in the IPL, the Times of India reported. A twist arrived however, in the involvement of two former India cricket captains, as Sachin Tendulkar will co-own the Kochi team, and Surav Ganguly is part of a consortium behind the Kolkata side.

The other six cities with participating teams are Bangalore, Delhi, Goa, Guwahati, Mumbai and Pune.

The internationalisation of the tournament – expected to be graced by global stars past their playing prime such as Thierry Henry and Hernan Crespo – was given a further fillip with the presence of Spanish club Atletico Madrid in the Kolkata consortium.

The football competition follows the model of the IPL and is organised by IMG Reliance, a joint venture between sports management group IMG and the Reliance Industries conglomerate, and broadcaster Star India.

The winning franchises bid some $200m, and while this amount was around one quarter of that bid for the very first IPL franchises, IMG chairman Mike Dolan was bullish about the future.

"We'd expect the value of our original eight franchises to grow from $200m to well over $400m in a few years' time, so with a bigger format with twice as many teams, that would suggest a value for football in India in the region of $1bn," he told the Financial Times.

That optimism is backed up by a recent report from marketing consultancy GroupM ESP and sports news provider SportzPower which said that advertising spend on non-cricket sports would grow at 20-25% a year over the next three years.

In addition to its involvement in football, where it also has a partnership with the governing body, the All India Football Federation, IMG Reliance has signed a 30-year partnership with the Basketball Federation of India to develop basketball at every stage - from grassroots to a professional league. Dolan expected that a major new basketball event would be launched during 2015.


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