IMG-Reliance, Star India Team To Launch Indian Super League Football Championship
IMG-Reliance and Star India have announced the launch of the Indian Super League football championship. The Indian Super League will feature teams in eight cities, with the hopes of tapping into the country's youth and qualifying for the 2026 World Cup. The league will begin Jan. 18 and run through March. Star India owns broadcast rights and will monetize content on and off the field. IMG-Reliance Chair Nita Ambani said, "Football, with its largely untapped potential in the country, has the opportunity to grow to an unrivaled commercial success quite unlike any other sport" (IMG). In Mumbai, Marcus Mergulhao reported IMG-Reliance is "going ahead with their plans of staging a football tournament without the inclusion of any players from the I-League, India's premier football competition." IMG-Reliance, the marketing partners of the All India Football Federation, have "hardly seen eye-to-eye with the I-League clubs who feel that the tournament is the biggest threat to their existence." An IMG-Reliance official said, "We are not having any (more) discussion with the I-League clubs. They have stuck to their decision not to release their players and we have no issues with that" (TIMES OF INDIA, 10/21). TNN's Anand & Rao reported former Arsenal, ManU and Chelsea players Thierry Henry, Dwight Yorke, Fredrik Ljungberg, Robert Pires, Louis Saha and Hernan Crespo "could soon be playing in your neighbourhood." The franchises -- to be determined through an auction early next month -- will also hire names like former ManU goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and World Cup winner Marcel Desailly as "managers to coach these teams." The invitation to tender document "has already been floated" by IMG-Reliance and the base price to buy a franchise is learned to be around Rs 25 crore ($4M) (TNN, 10/21).
BROADCAST DEAL: In Mumbai, Rao also reported IMG-Reliance has "entered into a multi-million dollar deal with Star India to become equity partners" in a joint venture for the next 10 years to run the proposed football league. Under the agreement, Star will hold a 30% stake in the joint venture with IMG-Reliance to "broadcast and promote" the football league in the country. The IMG-R and Star India's joint venture has decided to distribute 100% of the TV revenue to "its franchise owners in the tournament's first year" (TIMES OF INDIA 10/21). In London, Roger Blitz wrote that the Star Indian investment "is worth between RS15B-RS over 10 years," citing Indian sources. Unlike cricket's IPL, the ISL "is largely a top-down approach to growing football in the country." IMG's Jeff Slack said, "Indian just doesn't have a grass-roots program. If we did that, it's not going to inspire many kids" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 10/21).