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Volume 6 No. 215
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New Indian Super League Bid Draws In Bollywood Actors, Former Cricket Stars

The Indian Super League football tournament launched by Rupert Murdoch’s Star India TV network and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries said on Sunday that eight winners had bid $200M to set up teams, "including an eclectic range of local industrialists and Bollywood film stars," according to James Crabtree of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The forthcoming two-month tournament "marks a latest attempt to relaunch the world’s most-watched sport in one of its largest untapped markets." It also comes as the lucrative Indian Premier League cricket competition, which acted as a template for the football contest, "begins its annual jamboree this week." The ISL’s organizers include IMG Worldwide. The winning teams will be backed by an array of businesses, including media network Sun Group, "which won the franchise for Bangalore, alongside cable provider Den Networks and industrial conglomerate Videocon, which will establish teams in New Delhi and the western state of Goa respectively." IMG Chair Mike Dolan said that "the event would now look to expand aggressively, auctioning as many as dozen new football franchise in future years while also launching a separate event to capitalise on growing interest in basketball in Asia’s third-largest economy." Dolan said, "We’d expect the value of our original eight franchises to grow from $200 million to well over $400 million in a few years’ time, so with a bigger format with twice as many teams, that would suggest a value for football in India in the region of $1 billion" (FT, 4/13).

WINNING BIDDERS: In New Delhi, Malvania & Mishra wrote the other winning bidders include John Abraham and Shillong Lajong for Guwahati; Sachin Tendulkar and PVP Ventures for Kochi; , , Atletico Madrid, Sanjeev Goenka, Utsav Parekh for Kolkata, Ranbir Kapoor and Bimal Parekh for Mumbai and Salman Khan together with Kapil Wadhawan and Dheeraj Wadhawan of the Wadhawan Group for Pune. A source close to IMG Reliance and Star India said that "the average cost of the teams in the ISL" is Rs 15 crore ($2.4M) a year, 25% more than the base price. While the franchise fees for the winning bids are not known, sources close to the development said that "territories like Mumbai, Goa, Kolkata and Pune would have definitely fetched fees higher than the base price" of Rs 12 crore ($2M) a year (Indian BUSINESS STANDARD, 4/13). The AFP reported the made-for-TV event, to be broadcast by Star TV, "has already run into fierce opposition from India's top clubs." The clubs "have yet to confirm they will release players for the tournament, which they said earlier would threaten their existence and ruin the existing national I-League domestic competition." India, "ranked a lowly 145th in the world and 25th in Asia, has seen a surge in football's popularity due to live television coverage of matches played around the globe." Star TV, which also beams EPL matches to the country, "roped in India's cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to promote football for its sports channel." It also launched Hindi-language commentary on Premier League games "to ensure wider viewership in smaller towns where English is spoken less commonly" (AFP, 4/13).

: The PTI reported considered the "God of Cricket" for more than two decades, Tendulkar on Sunday "took the plunge into football when he bought the Kochi franchise." Tendulkar said, "I will always remain a sportsman at heart who is keen to positively impact the sporting fabric of the nation. The Indian Super League presents a great opportunity to develop a platform for the youngsters to learn and enhance their talent to develop into outstanding players" (PTI, 4/13). The IANS reported actor Kapoor said that "he was looking to translating his passion for the sport into development activity." Kapoor said, "Football has never been far away from my daily life since childhood, and now as a partner in the Indian Super League, I am looking forward to translate my passion into contributing to the growth of the sport" (IANS, 4/13). The PTI reported the bid for the Kolkata franchise was "won by former captain Ganguly in a consortium with Spanish League giants Atletico Madrid and industrialists Neotia, Goenka and Utsav Parekh." The Kolkata franchise co-owners further said that "they would soon invite Atletico Madrid officials to the city to formally unveil the side" (PTI, 4/13).

INSTANT CREDIBILITY: The PTI also reported former captain I. M. Vijayan said that the involvement of the likes of Tendulkar and Ganguly "will lend credence to the ISL and help in taking football forward in the country." Vijayan: "Certainly, their presence will do wonders in the ISL and in Indian football in general. For long, the business houses have been shy to invest in football. But now with the coming of the ISL, some big businessmen have come at least. Money will be poured in Indian football now. It is a wonderful news for football." Another Indian legend, Chuni Goswami, called it exciting times for Indian football "and appreciated the presence of corporates." Goswami said, "I'm very happy that a person of Sourav Ganguly's stature has forayed into football. It's certainly exciting times for the Indian football. With the involvement of the corporate sectors, the real development will be seen. Both in terms of infrastructure and standard of the game. It could not have come at a better time when Indian football is languishing at the world stage, with a ranking of 145." Shabbir Ali, who had also captained the Indian football team, "felt it will bring the fans back to the stadia" (PTI, 4/13).