It’s been 3 years since IMG-Reliance had struck a gigantic deal of Rs. 7 billion with the national football federation, AIFF following a series of investments on various sports in India. But, the deal which brought a ray of hope to the demoralizing Indian Football fans of the nation never took off as expected by many. But, the controversies which followed made it look like IMG-R are the biggest ever villains to make a mark in Indian football.
Since day one, IMG-R and AIFF are in a state of dilemma over various controversies which have been unfolding and the rate graph of developments of the sport has seen more of falls than rises. After a complete season of 2012-13 without title sponsors and broadcast partners, IMG-R, who managed to rope in Ten Sports to broadcast I-League, failed to rope in broadcasters for other prestigious tournaments including the Federation Cup and Durand Cup. I-League, the premier league of India is yet to have a title sponsor since ONGC’s withdrawal back in 2012.
The most affected set of stakeholders were the clubs representing the I-League who were upset with both IMG-R and AIFF over the revenue sharing scheme from which they had been completely written off. An average I-League club spends around Rs. 10 Crore a season but the returns and the revenues are very poor and the clubs need to be lauded for sustaining themselves. But, IMG-R who also were affected with poor revenues and returns after investing in billions and backing the nation during a rough phase, don’t want to take the responsibility.
The national body, AIFF, lead by the renowned politician and Union Minister, Mr. Praful Patel will never agree with anyone or anything coming against them as long as they believe they are doing all what they are capable of doing within the fence. Ever since the tie-up with IMG-R, AIFF are struggling to make a clear stand and make a balance between IMG-R and I-League clubs. The clubs who have declared their tussle with IMG-Reliance believe that the AIFF are giving a step motherly treatment to them. But, a helpless AIFF who had to agree upon a blameworthy deal with IMG-R mostly seem to be aimless on their moves. Unfortunately, the fans have made it a regular practice to put the maximum blame onto the AIFF.
The tie-up between the US tycoons and the national body that mostly felt was losing its way at the middle, wanted things back on track and thus resulted in an ambitious Dutch tie-up. This move saw some renowned World class imports like Rob Baan, a former technical director of Australian football, followed by ex-Dutch International Wim Kovermans and Australian Arthur Papas coming into the Indian football map. It didn’t take much time for them to settle down and crop off results in their favor thus eventually turning out to be the trend setters among fans. The mastermind Rob Baan, who had previously worked with PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord Rotterdam, had been compelling on the importance of World class academies and youth development programs for the nation to move forward. He soon proposed the FIFA Elite and regional academies which got activated soon on various hotbeds of India. I-League clubs were forced to fulfill the AFC criteria set by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) which transformed to its full version last season. The private firms were invited to buy franchises to play I-league which attracted around 30 odd corporate, out of which the AIFF struck deal with two corporate giants Dodsal and JSW that are to be based in Mumbai and Bangalore respectively.
The IMG-R with the backing of AIFF are preparing more initiatives that they believe can modernize football and also help them generate some revenues. IMG-R who weren’t really finished with their ambitious plans finally revealed their dream project that displayed one of the most controversial sagas among officials, clubs and fans. A short spanned private league which is now commonly known as the IMG-Reliance League is about to become a possible threat to the current state according to a few set of fans as they believe it can only make the things worse. The new league which lasts for two months is scheduled to start by January 2014 is trying to adopt all ingredients that can match the glamorous IPL cricket. The different corporate backed franchises will represent different Indian cities and will also be centrally registered. But, the process suffered further roadblocks after IPFCA intervened asking for a clarification on their role for the future.
The IPFCA (Indian Professional Football Club’s Association) started by the heads of I-League clubs to favor and stand united for fulfilling their wishes is led by Raj Gomes, the president of IPFCA and general secretary of Salgaocar FC. The enemies turned allies; the clubs realized the importance of standing united as things were already sliding off their hands and they had to make some quick prearrangement. The furious clubs who were disappointed over the officials who are neither supporting nor appreciating their hard works for the past decades thinks the officials are being a little unfair to them. The clubs demand for making I-League a separate legal entity and to give them a share of revenues has been denied by the AIFF and IMG-Reliance, and hence the clubs have opted not to release the players for the new league, which is making way for the latest controversies between AIFF, IMG-R and the I-League clubs themselves.
The controversies are getting worse, so are the blame games and endless debates among different stakeholders and fans. But, none really seems to have the exact idea on what could possibly be the factor that can drive Indian football forward. Since, the matter is not just about player development or youth development, but also about generating enough revenues, whether a better I-League or a Private franchise league can match that success is something what we needs to wait and watch over time rather than making our own wild obligations.
Written by Guest Author Varun Murukan. Follow the Author on Twitter