Indian League Is Shooting For American Football Attendance Record In Season Opener
India’s fledgling American football league is aiming to draw 120,000 fans to its second season opener on Dec. 31, a mark that would make it the highest-attended football game ever. The Elite Football League of India is moving from having its games played all in one location for TV production purposes, as it did last year for its first season in Sri Lanka, to a more traditional, home-team stadium experience, with fans paying for tickets and the games being televised live. EFLI has hired the Leo Burnett agency to launch a marketing campaign in India to bring more attention to the sport. League co-founder Richard Whelan is convinced the population and consumer explosion occurring in India, combined with the love of entertainment and American sports, will fuel success.
LEARNING FROM CRICKET: The Indian Premier League so outsized expectations in a country with 1.2 billion people are not uncommon. For now, the league is coming off a debut year in which revenue was not the focal point, with Whelan noting that the focus was on making the games TV programming rather than in-game experiences. How, and how much, that might change this year with an effort to bring fans to games, along with sponsorship and licensing pursuits, was unclear. The league also, starting next year, plans to sell franchises to raise funds. Investors currently fund the league. Among them are former NFLers Kurt Warner and Mike Ditka, and actor Mark Wahlberg. The league also has drawn several high-profile advisers, including former Fox Sports exec Ed Goren. The Notre Dame-Michigan football game on Sept. 12, 2011, in Ann Arbor currently holds the record as highest-attended football game, at 114,804. Kickoff for EFLI’s second season is slated for New Year’s Eve at 120,000-seat Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.