Will the AIFF deal with IMG-Reliance take Indian football forward? – Arunava Chaudhuri

December 17, 2010

Negotiations have been ongoing for many months, but finally on December 9, 2010 the All India Football Federation and IMG-Reliance signed on the dotted line of a 15 year contract with the aim of maximizing the sporting and commercial potential of football in India right from the grassroots up to the professional level. The overall deal is at least worth Rs. 7 Billion (US$ 155 Million) and both sides will work to maximise it even further. The deal is also the biggest ever such deal outside of cricket and I hope it starts a new era for Indian football.

The first step is that the old partner in the Zee Group is paid off with a one time payment of Rs. 700 Million, so their TV rights and marketing deal until 2014 is cancelled. Then the AIFF will receive around Rs. 250 Million per annum for the next five years, while from 2015 onwards IMG-Reliance guarantees the AIFF from the next 10 years at least Rs. 500 Million or 20 % of the net revenue whichever happens to be more. This guarantees the AIFF funds to run their operations, something which in the last few months had been difficult with the Zee Group not making scheduled payments.

The most important issue which the AIFF with their new partners IMG-Reliance will have to solve is the issue of TV rights. The AIFF only two weeks before signing the deal organised a bidding process for the I-League 2010/11 rights with only regional Bengali language channels showing interest to broadcast the matches. None of the private sports channels came forward as they think the current I-League is no sellable product on television. But in the interest of Indian football and the costly rights IMG-Reliance have bought it will have to find a suitable sports broadcaster to show matches from the I-League and Team India, but currently most slots on key Indian sports channels are taken. And it looks a short term solution looks unlikely.

In the past we have had similar such deals which we the well-wishers of Indian football hoped would take the beautiful game in our part of the world forward, but in the long term they simply couldn’t deliver due to different reasons, be it IMG’s deal with the AIFF in 1996 or the deal with the Zee Group in 2005. So hopefully this time around all parties will have learned their lessons that only Indian football counts and its development. Also the right people need to be brought in with the necessary knowledge and understanding, then knowing football or India will not be enough, they will need people who understand Indian football, only then there is the chance that everyone will be a winner and not all losers as has been the case in the past…

With the Asian Football Confederation pushing the Indian clubs to confirm with the AFC Club Licencing criteria for the 2011/12 I-League season, FIFA gifting India up to 10 artificial grounds under the ‘Win in India with India’ campaign and giving India more support through the GOAL Project plus JSW Steel committing to redevelop two stadia in Calcutta and Bangalore; these are all the right ingredients to push Indian football towards professionalization and a better future.

Arunava Chaudhuri, Commentator, Expert/Pundit, Correspondent 

Arunava Chaudhuri was born in Remscheid, Germany to Indian parents. He has worked as commentator, correspondent, expert pundit, producer for Deutsche Welle radio, ESPN India, Times Now and NDTV 24×7 to name a few besides recently co-hosting the 2010 Football Players Association of India awards. Arunava has his own football blog which can be read at http://arunfoot.blogspot.com

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