Click here to read part 1

In Part-2 of this article we take a look at the sorry state of affairs in Indian football in marketing and infrastructure.

The basics have not been taken care of

75 years and not even one international stadium to boast of. Is this what the AIFF have been doing all these years? Apart from the JN Stadium that was recently built for the Commonwealth Games, there is probably not even one stadium inIndia that would be fit to host a major international match at present. So in other words, in 75 years AIFF have not even managed to build one stadium that they could say is their own or have not even bothered to press the government to build a proper international stadium for football.

The biggest problem facing Indian football today is infrastructure, or probably the lack of it. Even the Indian national team was forced to relocate to the artificial turf in Bangalore after the natural turf in New Delhi was damaged due to the rains in the absence of proper drainage facilities.

The astro turf at the Salt Lake is in a sorry state. Do we have even one stadium in India that could host a Manchester United or an AC Milan game? Thanks to FIFA, India have got four artificial turfs – something that the AIFF could not even do in 75 years. Without proper infrastructure how can we think of producing players of top quality? Did it take the AIFF so long to have an academy of their own where they could develop players for the National Team? Today none of the I-league Clubs own a stadium of their own. Agreed that the onus of building their own infrastructure lies with the clubs, but the world over, governments play a major role in building infrastructure for the clubs, something that the AIFF could not persuade the Indian government to do despite their last two presidents being powerful ministers in the government. Take for example the Amsterdam Arena – which was built by the local municipality and leased to Ajax Amsterdam Football Club for long term or most of the stadia in Japan or Italy which were built by the government.

The lack of proper infrastructure is certainly a deterrent for the local crowd to come and watch the match at the venue a factor that is hampering the growth of Indian football.

The product has not been marketed for over 75 years

Does the AIFF have a marketing body where effort is made to sell off the product to the highest bidder? No. For over two years the League is running without a title sponsor. At present the I-League department in India has staff strength of five compared to over fifty in Japan. In the absence of a proper structure or a marketing plan or resources to execute the work how can the AIFF afford to sell a product like the I-League? In the 2010/11 season, there was not even a trophy presentation ceremony to the champions Salgaocar and  although neither was there anything special in this years trophy presentation to Dempo. AIFF barely managed to get Panasonic on board as sponsors or the National Team.

This following qoute by Rajeev Piramal in a chat with says it all.

Have you ever seen the I-League trophy?“In five years in Indian football, I have never seen the I-League trophy once. So no one even knows, I mean it boggles the mind. There is a trophy, no one knows what the trophy looks like. What are we talking about? This is the level of marketing and promotion that’s happening for the game. The Premier League trophy from England is seen and heard about in India more often than the I-League trophy. How are you promoting the sport? If the winners don’t even know what the trophy looks like, what are you doing? What is so great about this trophy – is it a great Kohinoor diamond that has to be hidden somewhere as if someone’s gonna steal it or what? The I-League trophy should there everywhere for people to see to show this is what we are fighting for.

In absence of a proper marketing arm it will be impossible to sell I-League and Indian football lucratively. Television has to be brought on board, infrastructure has to be improved and then clubs have to be made responsible for adding value to I-League and Indian players through fan development programmes, youth development, community development programmes and possible hiring of professional players. But when the federation itself is woefully unprofessional and does not fulfill the AFC Licensing Criteria it would be unfair to expect the clubs to fulfill all criteria.

Indian football has not seen any improvements over the last twenty years. Actually, it will not be wrong to say that Indian football has sunk to new lows – the FIFA rankings are testament to that.

Sepp Blatter was probably right to say India was a sleeping giant in 2006, but it wouldn’t be wrong to say it now that the giant hasn’t woken up and doesn’t seem to in the next few years.