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SBD Global/December 6, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Elite Football League Of India Expands Media Strategy, Looks For Growth In Second Season

The Elite Football League of India, a “new and curious venture aimed at introducing American football to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and other countries in Asia,” is a “perhaps quixotic undertaking, but it could prove to be lucrative should the game achieve some measure of popularity within the vast population of potential fans,” according to Bajaj & Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. EFLI co-Founder & co-CEO Richard Whelan said, “When you first watch the games, it’s laughable. ... It’s an absolute joke compared to the NFL. But it’s not a joke compared to anything else on Indian sports television, and that’s all we’re going up against.” Bajaj & Belson wrote under Whelan’s “frenzied leadership, the league has raised $8.5M from investors," including former NFLers Kurt Warner and Brandon Chillar, and he is "confident others investors will come on board.” To keep costs “to a minimum, the league stopped paying its players in the off-season and, in the first season, dispensed with stadiums, tickets, tailgating and other trappings of the American football experience.” Hour-long tapes of each game “were shown on television over a three-month period.” The EFLI will “ditch that strategy in its second season, when games in several Indian cities will be televised live.” Despite the “low level of play, the league’s founders claim that millions of people are interested in American sports and will watch if Indians and Pakistanis are competing.” EFLI broadcast partner Ten Sports CEO Atul Pande said viewership had been “negligible” and he “would be surprised if even 10,000 homes are watching.” Longtime NFL media exec Sandy Grossman, who works alongside former top Fox Sports exec Ed Goren in managing the league's broadcasts, said that the league “planned to add more pageantry to its broadcasts and was talking with execs in Bollywood” (N.Y. TIMES, 12/5).
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