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With Sony as TV partner and Virat Kohli as stake owner, Premier Futsal plans expansion

MUMBAI: With Sony as the telecast partner for three years and ace cricketer Virat Kohli as a stake owner, Premier Futsal Management has firmed up plans to expand its operations in the second season of world’s first multi-national futsal league.

Broadcast deal with Sony

The broadcast deal with Sony is for three years and is on a revenue sharing basis, said Premier Futsal chairman Xavier Britto, who owns Indev Group.

Sony SixSony will continue to live telecast the matches on Sony Six, Sony ESPN and Sony Aath.

Hindi commentary will be added for the second season, and the aim is also to air matches on regional channels. Matches will be available for live stream on Sony Liv.

Premier Futsal is in talks with international partners to ensure reach to a wider audience across more countries.

“Besides India, good TV viewership was seen in the UK and in the Middle East. We also see potential in Southeast Asia and in the Caribbean. The aim is to do good media rights deals globally including on digital platforms,” said Britto.

In terms of coverage, there will be improvements on the technical side. So there will be real-time graphics.

Virat Kohli owns a stake

Virat kohli insideThe co-owners and promoters own over 80% stake.

India team cricket captain Kohli is not just the league’s brand ambassador; he also owns a stake as does Luis Figo. Figo is also being paid a remuneration fee.

In the first year, the owners have invested over Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion), said Britto. From the second year the aim is to monetise by selling teams and getting in central sponsors.

The owners confirmed that former IMG India sports head Balu Nayar who had joined Premier Futsal is no longer associated with it.

Franchises expanded, owners to be decided on auction

The team owners are being increased from six to eight. The aim is to now have a new franchise from the North and another from Northeast. An auction will be held to decide the owners.

Premier FutsalPremier Futsal Management made their intentions to host the league bi-annually from 2017 onwards.

Bigger companies and bigger brands will be approached. The owners in the first year were more like sponsors and were attracted because of the talent that the league managed to get. These owners can bid or join hands with another entity going forward.

The owners in the first year were football aficionado and sports entrepreneurs—Rohit Ramesh of The Hindu Group owned Chennai, actor Jeet owned Kolkata, actor Puneeth Rajkumar owned Bangalore, Viking Media owned Goa, Dilip Chhabria owned Mumbai and Dubai-based Yes Events Management owned Kochi.

Luis FigoThe promoters expect two to three entities to join hands in each city. Ernst & Young has been appointed to help in the process in terms of franchise fee and the ownership years.

The league’s promoters expect breakeven to happen in the fifth year for themselves and the franchise owners. The franchises’ revenue will come from the central pool as well as ticketing, local sponsorships and merchandising.

Said Britto, “We managed to get the biggest marquee players to our country for Premier Futsal, and the fans in the stadium and those watching it on TV thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We are confident about what we are doing and have decided to make Premier Futsal a bi-annual property. Riding on the success of the first season, we will go back to our plan of playing with eight franchises and all the international futsallers will go under the hammer for Season 2. We will be announcing the processes and auction dates over the course of the next one month.”

Cities expanded to four

Sony-ESPN-mainThe second season will be played in the first quarter of 2017 across four cities, up from two in the inaugural edition.

“A lot of infrastructure isn’t needed to play futsal. A basketball court can be converted,” Britto said.

He noted that the format is fast and interesting and the stadiums in the first season had more women than men.

Format

The second edition of the league will see eight franchises divided into two groups to battle it across four venues to make it to the finals. The two new franchises will be assigned marquee international football players, six international and five Indian futsallers each.

The deal with the players is from three to five years.

Season 1 of Premier Futsal saw former world player of the year Ronaldinho, Manchester United stalwarts Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, ex-Chelsea and Inter-Milan forward Hernan Crespo, former Galactico Michel Salgado, and ‘Pele of Futsal’, Alessandro Rosa Viera, Falcao as marquee players for the six franchises.

Corporatisation process

An advisory board is being constituted to help with the corporatisation process to enable transparency. It will include two sports industry executives.

The league is being held in four cities in each edition to ensure that it is completed within two weeks. So if in one season four cities are used as venues, then in the next season the other four cities will be used. This way in a year all the cities will be covered.

Performance of first edition

The inaugural edition of Premier Futsal was seen by over 50 million TV viewers and was consumed by over 700 million people across almost 100 countries. Premier Futsal was also the first Indian sports league to stream all matches on Facebook Live.

Dinesh RajMD, co-founder Dinesh Raj said, “The first season was all about putting out a proof of concept. Like every league, we also faced several obstacles and criticism, but the success of the first season is for everyone to see. We already managed to reach out to over 700 million people across 100 countries, and we intend to tap at least four more regions internationally with Season 2. We have several inquiries from international brands willing to partner us and we are in an advanced stage of discussion with them.”

Auto and mobile are among the categories that have shown sponsorship interest. “Given the response for Season 1, in India and overseas, several brands have reached out to us already and have met our expectations. We are confident of announcing our title sponsor over the course of the next few weeks. Launchpad, our talent hunt programme, will stretch for 45 days and scout for talent from the eight franchise markets. We will be back, bigger and better for Season 2 of Premier Futsal,” Raj added.

The Futsal Association of India is the technical partner for Launchpad. That is because choosing talent is a technical process where talent, stamina and fitness ability to run for 40 minutes are judged.

Raj said that Kohli wanted to help and support the league. Figo, meanwhile, believed in the league and has guided it.

Britto noted that India needs a lot of sports as it has the largest youth population. His interest in the league stems from his passion for the sport. “I played soccer in school. I have attended most of the World Cups. When the concept came to me I was happy. The game isn’t popularly known in the country. Messi, Neymar, Pele came from futsal. You can dribble the ball. That is how India can produce good soccer players,” he said.

Co-founder, CEO Abhinandan Balasubramanian said, “We set out with a mission to give India a new fast-paced sport and with the first season of Premier Futsal, I think we are on the right track. The stadium attendance and social media reports suggest 35–40% of the audience were women. We have started work towards packing Premier Futsal as a sport for family audience. On average, over five goals were scored every game, and then obviously the finals also lived up to its expectations by going right down the wire and in to penalties.

“Of course, Ronaldinho’s fifer was a testament to his class and the format of futsal. This season, we will be making a few changes to the rules to make the game even faster. We are already in talks with multiple international futsal federations and several futsal clubs to reach out to a wider audience globally and consolidate our position as market leaders.”