Familiarity breeds contempt. That’s precisely the state of affairs with regards to the I-League. While those involved, including the All India Football Federation (AIFF) despite having floated in the Request for Proposal (RFP) for new franchisees, suggest that there is no revenue generation model for the clubs for now, the question is – What is it that Jindal Steel Works (JSW), one of the two groups who decided to plunge into Indian football see, which the rest of the pack cannot.
None of the clubs in the I-League come even close to breaking even let alone think of profits.
“If we do our bit and hopefully people can follow suit, that itself can raise the level of the league. I could be wrong but already people are tilting towards having a more professional outlook towards their own setups internally. I think if the AIFF can put together everything that they are trying to achieve through this RFP, the overall level of the league will go up.
“If all the old clubs start ticking all the boxes, they automatically become commercialized private organizations. If all that can be achieved and the onus is on the AIFF to do that, then the league itself will be in a much better position,” opined Mustafa Ghouse, CEO of JSW’s sports vertical.
One must certain laud the Indian FA for coming up with an RFP which shall ensure that corporates with financial muscle make their way into the I-League and thus approach football in a more holistic manner. It shall ensure that the basics are taken care of – youth development, infrastructure and employment of certified professionals in the field as opposed to those belonging to the old school of thought.
On being asked whether the AIFF must go ahead with their RFP plan once again, Ghouse answers in the affirmative.
“Absolutely. They should all find ways (to do it) whether it's every year or every two years. The sport needs to be pan-India. Right now it is in pockets like Kolkata, Goa, parts of Mumbai and Pune. If the league is pan-India and they have the opportunity to spread the sport, it will immediately draw interest and things will get better. It’s up to the governing body (AIFF) to do all that.”
It’s a sign of a sound investor to have thought of the various ways he or she can recover before harping on the profits. As of today, the clubs do not earn a penny from the sale of TV rights as the AIFF has sold all its commercial and marketing rights to IMG-Reliance. The I-League is a separate legal entity, so to say on paper. There is no revenue earned from merchandising, pre-season tours or sponsorship. Ticket sales are marginal and the money earned is negligible to say the least.
“Consequences are unpitying,” as George Elliot wrote.
With no traditional avenues to earn profits as clubs across the world do, how does JSW exuberate confidence in managing to retrieve the bucks put in?
“It would be pre-mature to reveal the plans. We have our thoughts in place on what are the verticals we want to invest in, to explore and start recovering. We are also pretty sure on the type of spent we have, team related. By that you understand it’s not just going to be splurging on players and paying them as much as they want and trying to fight with other clubs to outbid.
“I think we are clear on that aspect as well. I think it’s a combination of balancing both ends and then we can put things into perspective.”