Thu, May 08, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Glitzy new league seek to make India soccer power

Reuters, MUMBAI

The stakeholders believe that if presented, packaged and promoted properly, the ISL will add sorely needed entertainment value and glamor to the game.

Soccer writer Jaydeep Basu does not doubt the ISL will be success, but is skeptical of how much it will benefit Indian soccer.

“It might bring back spectators to the ground and encourage more youngsters. It should be a commercial success in a few years, but Indian football will remain where it is,” Basu said. “If you could revolutionize the game with a two-month tournament then countries from Middle East would have done it many years ago. They would have won many World Cups by now. Nobody has the kind of money they have.”

Soccer is popular only in certain areas of India, while appetite for televised matches is restricted to the English Premier League or Spain’s La Liga.

FIFA has signed a 10-year agreement to develop the game in the world’s second-most populous country and the IMG-Reliance joint venture is four years into a 15-year deal as the commercial partner of the AIFF, which is worth 7 billion rupees (US$116.26 million).

“That India needed it [ISL] is a hoax. Who needed it? The marketing and broadcasting partners of the AIFF maybe,” Basu said. “The I-League has not been returning any money for the partners. The ISL is a business opportunity, they want to make their money back through this. So I am ready to agree if you tell me it’s a good chocolate, but don’t tell me chocolate is healthy.”

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