16 Dec 2017
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IPL-styled soccer league draws big names from Bollywood, cricket and corporate world

MUMBAI: Described as a sleeping giant by none other than the world football chief Sepp Blatter, the beautiful game has taken a giant leap forward with the announcement of franchise owners for the Indian Super League (ISL), an IPL-styled league promoted by IMG-Reliance and Star India under the aegis of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

The winning bidders include some of the biggest names in the corporate world, bollywood and cricket. While the bids of individual franchises have not been revealed, a report in the ‘Financial Times’ says that the franchises have paid a little more than the base price of $20 million for 10 years.

The cumulative bid of the eight franchises is $200 million, the report adds.

The ISL did not publish the amounts paid by each team, but most seem to have bid little more than the minimum $20 million for a 10-year franchise, according to internal documents seen by the ‘Financial Times’.

Four of the final eight cities—Delhi, Kochi, Guwahati and Bangalore—will find itself in the mainstream football map of the country, which is traditionally being dominated by Kolkata, Goa, Pune and Mumbai.

In a major surprise, Sameer Manchanda-led DEN Networks has bagged the Delhi franchise.

The Chennai-based Sun Group has won the bid for the Bengaluru franchise. This is Sun Group’s second foray into sports, with the group having previously bought the Hyderabad franchise of the Indian Premier League (IPL) for Rs 4.25 billion.

Bollywood’s latest super star Ranbir Kapoor and Bimal Parekh have got the Mumbai franchise. Incidentally, former Disney honcho Ronnie Screwvala was in the reckoning for this franchise.

Salman Khan, a self-confessed football fan, has taken the Pune franchise along with Kapil Wadhawan and Dheeraj Wadhawan of the Wadhawan Group.

Film star John Abraham has finally realised his dream owning a sports franchise with the Guwahati franchise. He has partnered popular North Eastern football club Shillong Lajong to run the franchise.

Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar, in partnership with the Hyderabad-based PVP Ventures, has taken the Kochi franchise.

Former Indian captain and Bengal’s most iconic cricketer Sourav Ganguly has taken the lucrative Kolkata franchise along with Harshavardhan Neotia, Spanish club Atletico Madrid, Sanjeev Goenka and Utsav Parekh.

Videocon Group chairman Venugopal Dhoot, who had unsuccessfully bid for an IPL franchise earlier, has got the Goa franchise along with the owners of two of Goa’s popular clubs Dattaraj Salgaoncar of Salgaoncar FC and Shrinivas V Dempo of Dempo SC. Both Salgaoncar and Dempo are I-League clubs.

The first edition of the ISL is expected to be conducted in September-November.

The ISL is owned by Football Sports Development, a joint venture between IMG-Reliance and Star India, which had taken a 35 per cent stake in the company for Rs 2,000 crore (Rs 20 billion). Star India also holds the media rights to the event.

The ISL aims to ignite a revolution in the sport and ultimately enable Indian football to thrive and perform at the highest level on the international stage.

Ernst & Young, the international advisory firm, had the mandate of drawing up and validating the bid process. Each bidder was subject to strict eligibility norms and was required to submit the bids, as prescribed under the ‘Invitation to Bid’ document. Bids were evaluated by the jury panel in the presence of Ernst & Young representatives.

One of the prominent criteria in the process of ‘League Partners’ selection had been the commitment to grassroots development—an essential ingredient required for a systematic growth of the sport.

In the first year itself, ISL, along with its eight partners, aims to reach out to one million kids through an in-school programme and community development.

Going forward, the league envisages having grassroots training module, on the lines of FIFA-approved programmes, for age-specific coaching starting with U-8 and by the fifth year. Each League Partner aims to have a full-time academy.

“It is with great pride that I welcome the eight League Partners to the Indian Super League. We want to unlock the unbound aspirational energy of our youth through grassroots and community development programmes,” said IMG-Reliance chairperson Nita M Ambani.

“Together, we will strive to build a vibrant ecosystem that will provide impetus to football in India. As Mentor of the League, I commit myself to development of football as a major sport for the youth of India.”

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of several years of hard work and strategic planning,” said IMG chairman and chief executive and IMG-Reliance chairman Michael Dolan.

“We are enormously pleased at the level of interest the creation of the Indian Super League has generated. We believe the league signals the beginning of a new era in the development of football in India and, in future, will be the source of great pride for the people of India.”

Given the burgeoning interest in football and the country’s long association with the sport, the Indian Super League desires to position itself among the best footballing competitions across the world, as an entertaining and high quality league that would engage hundreds of millions of fans and drives improvement in playing standards.

“Inspiring our nation to excel is a priority and comes naturally to us at Star India. With our expertise in marketing and production of sports content, our task is cut out to etch football in the sports culture of India. The nation has been awaiting its second sport for far too long. And we’re delighted to collaborate with esteemed partners in the business and sports world to make that happen,” said Star India CEO Uday Shankar.

AIFF president Praful Patel said, “No period in India’s long and proud history in football is more exciting than today. This day will go down in memory as a special day for Indian football as eight high-profile celebrities and corporates are being introduced into the sport through Indian Super League. With IMG-Reliance and Star providing the perfect foundation, the league has become an unstoppable force which would change Indian football.

“I hope the grassroots obligations of the franchises give a huge push to the development of the game. Along with the world-class infrastructure that is being created for the Under 17 FIFA World Cup, and AIFF’s expression of interest to host 2015 and 2016 FIFA Club World Cup, Indian football is definitely turning a new leaf in its history.”

AIFF general secretary Kushal Das too is a firm believer in the fact that Indian football needs an innovative approach to amass popularity.

“I have always believed Indian football needs an innovative and experimental format like the Indian Super League to bring the fans back to the stadiums. Today, with the kind of owners and organisers that we have behind Indian Super League, we have the perfect recipe to a successful professional tournament,” Das said.

Franchise owners hail Indian Super League

The ISL franchise owners have exuded confidence that the IPL-styled football league has all the ingredients to become a successful property.

Franchise owners said that the ISL will change the face of Indian football and represent transformational progress for Indian football, which will be good for players, fans and the league partners.

“I will always remain a sportsman at heart who is keen to positively impact the sporting fabric of the nation. The Indian Super League presents a great opportunity to develop a platform for youngsters to learn and enhance their talent to develop into outstanding players,” said Tendulkar.

“It has been an interesting experience interacting with the young, passionate team at PVP Ventures led by Prasad Potluri. Based on the various insights shared by the team, the opportunity of the Kochi club seemed like a compelling and challenging proposition. With the Kochi club, we will strive to score our goals and play a part in developing the game of football across the country.”

“We look forward to developing the Kochi club in the Indian Supper League and are proud to partner with one of India’s greatest sportsmen, Sachin Tendulkar, in our efforts. We will tap the potential talent as also channel the fervour and passion for football across the country to enhance the quality and competitive level of the sport. The following and enthusiasm of football in the southern part of the country present a fertile opportunity for us to execute our plans and leverage global expertise for the development of a world-class club,” said PVP Ventures chairman and managing director Prasad Potluri.

“Soccer runs in the blood of every Indian and is a part of our sporting DNA. We see this in the millions of loyal and passionate viewers of the FIFA World Cup, the EPL and Champions League. The missing piece was a strong Indian league and ecosystem of state-of-the-art grounds and academies which the youth and soccer lovers could relate to,” stated DEN Networks’ Sameer Manchanda.

“The Indian Super League is the beginning of a movement that will revolutionise Indian soccer and uncover the true potential of the sport in our county. It will be a dream come true when India plays in the FIFA World Cup finals. DEN Networks is proud to be associated with IMG Reliance and Star India in making the Indian soccer dream a reality. DEN’s roots in Delhi make it the ideal home to spearhead the city’s aspirations to become the champions of Indian soccer,” Manchanda added.

Kolkata co-owner Atletico Madrid owner Miguel Angel Gil Marin said, “I am very excited to have won the Kolkata franchise of the ISL and being the first International team to be directly owning a club in India. We, along with our Indian partners and IMG-Reliance, aim to revolutionise football in the country.”

Pune franchise co-owner Wadhawan Group CMD Kapil Wadhawan commented, “It is important that we provide India’s youth access to localised sporting action. Football is the world’s most favourite game and it attracts a huge wave of interest among us Indians. However, we do not have a domestic forum to bring this interest alive. Indian Super League provides this long-awaited platform to polarise India’s football interest. This league would then offer opportunities to millions of Indian youth to bring their dreams to reality. I am personally committed to this endeavour.”

“It is a moment of great pride for me to be a part of the Indian Super League and to represent the vibrant city of Mumbai. Football has never been far away from my daily life since childhood, and now as a partner in the Indian Super League, I am looking forward to translate my passion into contributing to the growth of the sport. I firmly believe in the grassroots and community development program designed by the League organisers IMG Reliance, to popularize the game and that’s one thing which excited me to be part of this dream,” said Mumbai franchise owner Ranbir Kapoor.