I-League champions Bengaluru FC created a tremendous impact both on and off the ground with their professional approach and their success story could bring inspire more franchisees to set up clubs in the I-League.
During the first week of January,2013 word had managed to come out ,that Dodsal FC had failed to register for the upcoming season, in the I-League 2nd division. They could instead participate in the I-League directly, through a cash payment ,to the All India Football Federation(AIFF) and if they promised to create a stadium within Mumbai,Maharashtra by 2017.
Within a few days on 12 th January the AIFF had called a executive meeting, on 15th January to discuss the handing of some spots in the 2013-14 I-League, to selected companies.This was a result over the uncertainty over the participation of clubs like Air-India FC and ONGC . After the meeting ,the AIFF officially announced that the federation would accept bids for two new direct-clubs ,for the 2013-14 season in the I-league. However in an effort to make the league more “pan-Indian”, the companies bidding for the two direct entry spots had to guarantee the team would be playing outside both Kolkata and Goa and would also have to commit to building-up new infrastructure.
On 28th May 2013, it was officially announced that JSW Group and Dodsal Group had won the franchise rights to the direct club in Bangalore and Mumbai respectively. The JSW Group and Dodsal Group joined the likes of the Prayag Group and UB Group. The Bangalore club would be controlled by JSW Group’s sports branch JSW,Sports and the Mumbai club, which was already being run as Dodsal FC was renamed as Mumbai Tigers and would be controlled like Manchester City, as Rajen Kilachand the owner of Mumbai Tigers and Dodsal group has close ties with city owner Sheik Mansour.
Mumbai tigers backed out of participating in the I-League ,as they cited unavoidable circumstances and stated that they were not yet prepared fot the I-League ,requesting the AIFF to give them permission to participate in the 2nd Division League for the 2013-14 season. Bengeluru FC however participated in the I-League in place of clubs like Air India FC and ONGC.
JSW Group has left no stone unturned in making Bangalore a football crazy city . They used the Bangalore Football Stadium , which has a capacity of 15,000 people as their home ground and for the upcoming season they will make the 40,000 capacity Sree Kanteerava Stadium as their home ground. Bengaluru FC announced their arrival in style, with a season which shocked everyone concerned with Indian Football, even their fans wouldn’t have thought that they would emerge champions when the season finished in April,2014.The success that Bengaluru achieved was a result of the investment done by the JSW group , The JSW Group recruited top national and foreign players and appointed a former Manchester United youth player as Head Coach and the owners supported the coach in his decisions and it paid dividends, come April 2014 they were holding the I-League trophy . Bengaluru FC also nearly averaged 100% attendance , the Bangalore club had a average attendance of 7068 out of a possible 8500 persons held at the Bangalore Football Stadium.
Bengaluru FC ‘s success showed the path for new multinationals to invest in Indian Football. Previously with the dominance of the Goan and Bengal club’s ,new clubs would find it difficult to compete in the I-League ,but with Bengaluru FC winning the I-League in their inaugural season new franchisees will be hoping that they can achieve a similar feat. As a result this year also the AIFF has invited bids from more clubs to be a part of the 2014-15 I-League. A club from the Southern India has already made a formal bid to be a part of the League for the 2014-15 season and another club from the Northern part is expected to follow suit and some clubs have also requested the AIFF to extended the deadlines for a week.
As more Franchisee’s enter the fray for the biggest prize in club competition in Indian Football , it will help the league to be more spread-out through out the country (Teams from Bengal and Goa majorly participate in the I-League). The new franchisee’s will try to achieve a Higher spot in the table and for that they will try to recruit the best Indian as well as foreign players, this will increase competition and will improve the quality of football. With the new franchisee guaranteeing to build a Football Stadium and proper infrastructure , young players will heavily benefit from these steps and these young players may go on to represent the club at senior level and at some point may even don the national jersey. Football culture will be developed in the State/City, in which the club sets up its base, just like Bangalore has now become a prominent footballing city only a year after Bengaluru FC’s inception.
New Franchisee’s will overall improve the I-League as it will not only benefit the AIFF in terms of revenues ,but also it will help to produce better players in the next few years , which will improve the National Team. The 2014-15 season promises a lot of surprises for I-League followers across the country and it will be a season which can go on to lead Indian Football to newer heights.
Written By THT Guest Author Boudhayan Sarbajna