Business giants join forces to launch Indian Super League

Following months of speculation, Reliance Industries, IMG Worldwide and Star India on Monday announced the launch of an Indian Super League competition which aims to become a catalyst for the growth of the sport in India.

Following months of speculation, Reliance Industries, IMG Worldwide and Star India on Monday announced the launch of an Indian Super League competition which aims to become a catalyst for the growth of the sport in India.

The league aims to revolutionise the sport in India, leveraging the strengths of all three partners who are focused on growing the game to national prominence, offering Indian football greater global exposure and eventually helping the national team qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Reliance, India’s largest business enterprise, the IMG Worldwide agency and Star India, a broadcast subsidiary of media company 21st Century Fox, will each own three equal stakes in the league. The Economic Times  newspaper said Star India initially considered acquiring solely the broadcast rights to the league, but will now pay Rs20 billion (US$325.3 million) for equity and broadcast rights for 10 years, from 2014 to 2023. The Times of India newspaper said that the deal is more likely to be worth Rs15 billion ($244 million).

The Indian Super League will feature eight city-specific teams to start with, reportedly in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Kochi, Goa, Delhi, Pune and Bangalore, and will seek to tap into the burgeoning interest for football among the country’s young population. The league will kick-off on January 18, 2014 and will run through to March 2014, with a second window planned later in the year. Star India, which will own the league’s broadcast and sponsorship rights, will use its sports properties to take the competition to millions of households and also monetise the content on and off the field.  “India is hungry for its second sport. Combining top notch infrastructure with our expertise in sports production, our attempt is to bring an unparalleled football experience to our viewers,” said Uday Shankar, CEO of Star India. “For far too long, the Indian sports fan has quietly waited for this revolution on the cusp of which we stand today. Our objective is nothing short of creating a movement around football in India. We want to put India on the global map.”

Each team will have one marquee player, international players and the best of Indian talent. The Times of India reports the likes of Dwight Yorke, Fredrik Ljungberg, Robert Pires, Louis Saha and Hernan Crespo have already signed up to compete, with Thierry Henry and Michael Owen also in talks. The Indian Super League will also implement various football development projects aimed at holistic development of the sport in the country. It is seen as the latest attempt to transfer the hugely successful Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket concept to another sport. Nita M. Ambani, chairperson of IMG-Reliance, said: “Football, with its largely untapped potential in the country, has the opportunity to grow to an unrivalled commercial success quite unlike any other sport. We hope the growing football footprint will pave the way for the nation’s sporting renaissance.”