BY RAHUL BALI Follow @rahulatma on twitter
Larsing Ming, one of the vice-presidents of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), hopes for a fruitful meeting between their commercial and marketing partners, IMG-Reliance and the I-League clubs.
While Kushal Das, the AIFF general secretary, mentioned of the gathering being an ‘informal’ one, Ming stressed that the primary issue to be addressed is to sort out the differences between the clubs and IMG-Reliance.
“The AIFF realizes that it is important that a better communication is established between all stakeholders, that is IMG-Reliance and the clubs. Sometimes lot of issues arise and there is not enough communication and clarity on various things. When communication is not clear that results in a lot of questions and confusion. The basic underlining (of the meeting) is that of promotion and marketing of the I-League.
“What AIFF wants to do is facilitate a better understanding between the clubs and our marketing partners in IMG-Reliance,” he explained.
While the national coach Wim Koevermans is concerned that he may have to drop several players who aren’t playing regularly given their choice to be associated with IMG-Reliance’s new tournament as the I-League clubs have refused to take any of those players in their squad, the said issue won’t be brought up at the meeting in Mumbai.
“That is an AIFF specific issue. I don’t think it needs to be addressed in a platform between clubs and IMG-Reliance. I think the welfare of the national team players should be everyone’s responsibility. Primarily it is a federation’s issue. Let us not get too confused. It may be addressed separately later.”
Praful Patel, the AIFF president, had asked IMG-Reliance to present a marketing plan on the I-League at the last Executive Committee meeting. However given the poor attendances at several venues, the I-League fails to catch the imagination of the fans.
Ming mentioned that each stakeholder needs to play their part in order to ensure that the I-League is successful.
“The I-League needs marketing and the responsibility primarily lies with the organizers, which in this case in this I-League committee and IMG-Reliance. But in the same vein, all clubs have an equal responsibility to market their own game and the league,” he said.
I-League | 'help us to help you'
Ming continued, “We don’t get crowds to certain venues in home games and this is one concern more than anything that which the AIFF has because sponsors follow fans. If we don’t bring in fans, there is no question of looking for sponsors either for clubs or the league. In this regard, it is important that all stakeholders together chalk out a plan to promote the I-League. This needs to be addressed once and for all.”
It must be noted that while the I-League struggles to rope in a sponsor, the Goa Professional League (GPL) have Airtel as their title sponsor and Adamo -The Bellus as its hospitality partner. Not that fans turn out in huge numbers for the local league games, but the Goa Football Association (GFA) under the leadership of Shrinivas Dempo have done a commendable job in roping in sponsors.
So is it a case of the stakeholders of the I-League not selling the right story for corporates to associate themselves with the country’s national league?
“I think everyone has underperformed in this regard. Neither the I-League Committee nor IMG-Reliance or the clubs have done enough to promote the I-League. The commercial value of the league is the sum total of the commercial value brought on the table by the clubs. The I-League will be as attractive to the sponsors depending on the kind of value each stakeholder in the league brings to the table,” opined the Shillong Lajong owner.
“Let’s look at the IPL (Indian Premier League). You may notice that though the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) promotes the IPL through various outdoor activation and channels, each IPL team also does a lot of marketing. If you go to Mumbai, you see a lot of Mumbai Indians hoarding. This holds true for Kolkata Knight Riders in Kolkata and Royal Challengers in Bangalore. These are things that the clubs need to understand and similarly the federation and IMG-Reliance.
“We need to sit down and each one has to chip in. Sponsors follow fans,” Ming reiterated. “We will never get sponsors and then it becomes a chicken and egg situation. It’s easy for Airtel to sponsor the Goa League but when you talk of national league, the stakes are pan-India. Is the league attractive enough for a sponsor to come in?
“We need to bring in fans to the league and therefore responsibility lies with all. For now, the clubs, IMG-Reliance and the AIFF need to put our thinking caps for improvement of the league and bring fans to stadiums.”
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