Complete Your Profile
Only lowercase letters and number are allowed
You can change your Role later from Edit Profile Link
Home -> Blogs -> Free Kick -> TFM Editorial: Between Two Poles

TFM Editorial: Between Two Poles

Dec 09, 2014 20:25

Between two poles: India's story of Football


Kailas Joshi - TFM Content Editor

I think we would all agree that India has plenty of talent. Considering the size of our population (a whoppin’ 1.2 billion official heads, and counting!), is there no talent among the rabblement? If the authorities of football insist on harvesting the unchallenged prodigies of India, when will they begin doing so? Why exactly does the Indian football aficionado religiously watch all EPL or La Liga matches? Why is it that everywhere I turn, I see a Chelsea patch or a Man U keychain or bag? Why not a Mohun Bagan sling bag or a Pune FC bracelet?

The ongoing ISL or Hero Indian Super League aims to do precisely this. It has been years now that cricket has been our one and only passion in the sports department. Over the years, concept franchise leagues have gained popularity for their “mass culture” vibe and appeal, and this tactic has been used for cricket and hockey in the past. Today, it is being used for football and even kabaddi. It is reported that about 74.7 million people were reached on the opening day of the ISL. The broadcaster network of Star India, through eight channels, has managed to reach a weekly cumulative figure of about 170 million. This is second only to the opening-day stats for the Indian Premier League, which was 195 million. The Pro Kabaddi League, reached an initial day audience of about 66 million. Yes, there is a huge difference in viewership between the cricket league and other sports. But hey, when you look at the figures, I-League has managed to just reach a population of 1 million on its first day. This was in 2007. The broadcaster is the Taj Television Network. Maybe it’s to do with popularity and the reach of the network. Or maybe it’s the sport. Or maybe, it’s not the sport, but the advertising. I guess this is the reason I could never find that Mohun Bagan sling bag. They never printed one.

The ISL undoubtedly has advertised and sponsored itself well. It is owned by IMG-Reliance and Murdoch’s Star India Pvt. Ltd. Hero MotoCorp Ltd is the title sponsor, having signed a deal of Rs. 60 to 65 crores for three years. However, it is still reportedly struggling to rope in the associate sponsors. The advertisement is everywhere: Twitter and Facebook registered the ISL as trending topics soon after kick-off, which drew in skeptical sponsors like Coca Cola India and Puma India Pvt. Ltd. The I-League has so far managed to grab Airtel as their title sponsor, but there are no other big-wigs in the fray here. The EPL is pulling in a lot more sponsors. But let’s not compare Indian football leagues with English ones, okay?

So does it all go down to sponsorship? No. It is a combination of sponsorship, advertisement, and planning. The ISL is strategically planned to pull in more crowds and regain football’s popularity in India after the 60s. Kick-off is at prime time. Entertainment has wed commerce, and the two have a great baby pulling in all the attention. Football players in India were always spectators of their own sport, receiving step-motherly treatment because cricket was the new baby on the block. I-league barely manages to reign in more than 100 spectators for its matches, but the stands at the ISL fill in fast. So what is the reason?

Big bucks and bigger names. There’s a lot of high-profile cash changing high-profile hands here, unlike the cash-strapped I-League. No sponsors equals no money. No advertisement also equals no money. No one needs a degree in math to know that with no money you cannot generate interest. Big names like Atletico, Salman Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Alessandro del Piero, Trezeguet, Elano, David James, Garcia, Silvestre, Pires  are just enough to get the crowds to watch their beloveds in person. Huge amounts of investments with proper planning will lead to sustenance and profit. The financial (I’m not talking about controversies!) stability acquired by the IPL assures the viewer of its return each year. The ISL has a genetically inbuilt formula for popularity: each team requires 7 foreign players and 1 marquee player, as opposed to 4 foreign players including 1 marquee player in the I-League. This means that big names are an automatic requirement for the running of a team. Granted, one disadvantage is that the scouting of talent will be restricted in terms of the ISL, because the number of local players diminishes greatly. The presence of high stakes and big bucks demands that there is less at stake as far as inexperienced and young players are concerned. As far as the organizers are concerned, the main aim of the ISL is to bring in attention and popularity. The scouting, it seems, is left to the dreary I-League. There is an untapped source of talent, passionate enthusiasts and potential in the I-League. The I-League is more “purist” in its approach and method, concentrating more on developing talent than attention, and consists of institutional teams, which means that several players have a second life outside of the field, working for the company that sponsors them. This is a major difference between the ISL and the I-League. One has scope to develop serious talent, but has no funding nor attention. The other has plenty of funding but no great opportunities for many localities


The institutional team strategy also backfires on the I-League’s fate, because the support, the vital encouragement required by players is missing. They represent not a geographical entity, but a small group of companies. They have no support of the masses, because their playing fails to reach out to the masses for their help and support. The ISL is cashing in on this flaw.

One has good infrastructural possibilities and organisational power. The I-League may just have to revamp its organisational tactics, because there are issues with the match timings, facilities provided to players and reception of sponsors. A decent timetable could be run, and despite running for 7 years, there is no stability acquired in these departments. How would sponsors provide help if it will not be utilized well? Sponsors must be kept as happy as babies, else the cash flow stops. It’s a cycle. Then the players do not get infrastructure. Which leads to bad seating arrangements for spectators. Which means there is no revenue from ticket sales that lead to profits. No profits is no future sponsor. You know, a stationary cycle. It goes round without ever going anywhere.

So we have two extremes here, both for the benefit of football, but one formula apparently works better than the other. There is talk already of the two leagues merging together after a few years of garnering enough support for football among the cricket-crazy Indian population. As of today, 6 out of ten teams (players) of the I-League are allowed to play in the ISL. Current I-League champions Bengaluru FC are not one of them. Why weren't all teams allowed to participate? Is this politics between the I-league clubs and the ISL franchise teams? The competitive element only draws in more crowds and delivers more experience for the players. By denying some players a chance to participate in this extravaganza, I-League has lost out on the wealth of experience in the players’ portfolios. The FIFA maintains that the I-League is still recognized by them as the bigger league, as they only “function” this way. Every country has just one major league. What if two leagues were made to compete with each other. Wouldn't this bring in more attention, healthy competition and better talent to the leagues? Why the orthodox approach to it? A merger might be good, but then the balance might just tilt towards on one of the two things: attention and popularity or scouting of talent. And then it might just be back to square one for Indian football, isn't it?

But then, a merger between the two might just introduce a healthy balance to the chaos. Two extreme approaches would not do any justice to the game. If a symbiotic relationship can be achieved by a merger of the two, we’d all be happy for football. And then we’d finally get our Mohun Bagan sling bags. 

Live updates
Follow the SEPT campaign
Louis van Gaal: Manchester United sack manager
Keylor Navas has the best goals/match ratio of the last 20 seasons at Real Madrid
Will Hughes makes his first Derby start since the opening day of the season.
After 20 games, Zidane's 80% win percentage is higher than any of Real Madrid's previous managers.
After 20 games, Zidane's 80% win percentage is higher than any of Real Madrid's previous managers.
Chinese Women's National Football Team have qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Australian Women's National Football Team have qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Swedish Women's National Football Team have qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Juventus coach Allegri has ended Chelsea Rumors by stating he will be wil Juventus Next season
"I'm asking Roma to do the 'impossible' against Real" - Spalletti
Sweden Women's team defeated Switzerland's team 1 - 0 in the second match of the UEFA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Norway Women's team defeated Netherlands Women's team 4 - 1 in the second match of the UEFA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Arsenal's Petr Cech Out For up to 4 weeks
Netherlands Women's team defeated Switzerland's team 4 - 3 in the UEFA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Invite Friends
Protege Sports is better with friends!

Please share updates related to sports only.