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For Sevilla FC to partner with an I-League second division team is testimony to our growing prowess: FC Bengaluru United CEO Gaurav Manchanda

FC Bengaluru United CEO Gaurav Manchanda
FC Bengaluru United CEO Gaurav Manchanda
Gopalakrishnan R

In January 2021, FC Bengaluru United, a second-division I-League club, made heads turn by signing a partnership agreement with a top-flight club in the Spanish Football League.

Bengaluru United’s wide-ranging five-year-agreement with Sevilla FC sees the two teams exchange technical and technological know-how, grassroots exchanges and collaborative content activations.

For the 132-year-old six-time Europa League Champions, Sevilla FC, this is a much-awaited opportunity to build a robust fan following in India.

For four-year-old FC Bengaluru United, the tie-up is a chance to make rapid strides towards promotion to the I-League & ISL.

Sportskeeda.com’s Varun Pai and Ashwin Lonkar caught up with FC Bengaluru United’s CEO Gaurav Manchanda for an exclusive breakdown into the nature of the Bengaluru United – Sevilla partnership.

Q. The partnership between Bengaluru United and Sevilla was announced last year but the thinking behind this collaboration has been in the works before Covid-19 struck the world. Given the number of clubs in European football, what about Sevilla FC makes them the ideal partner for Bengaluru United?

Sevilla FC has an illustrious 132-year history as a football club - it is one of the oldest in Europe and the oldest club for football in Spain. Their sporting model is exceptionally unique - they started at ground zero in the 2nd Division and within a span of just two decades, were crowned UEFA Europa League Champions and hold the record for the most number of UEFA Europa League titles - having clinched the trophy six times since its inception. Their motto of "Never Surrender" characterises their never-say-die attitude and their determined will to win.

Given their rich history, sporting nous, tactical acumen, and the wealth of experience they bring, it made complete sense to partner with them. Sevilla FC, too, in turn, were keenly aware of what we, FC Bengaluru United, would bring to the table, which is why they chose us.

We are a young team performing at a high level, with an exciting future ahead of us. In our short journey, we have already achieved several exciting milestones and have been crafting a steady rise within the Indian football circuit.

The city and community of Bengaluru lie at the heart of FC Bengaluru United, and it is with this foundational base that the side wishes to grow. Both clubs realised that the synergy between vision and goals and a partnership seemed like the natural way forward.


FC Bengaluru United - Sevilla Partnership

Q. Sevilla FC are a well-known club in Europe and are keen on growing their brand presence in India. What is the vision for FC Bengaluru United in Indian football & with this collaboration with Sevilla FC ?

Club President José Castro met @bengaluruunited founder @manchandagaurav on our visit to India! 🇮🇳 https://t.co/A8atmqRWb5

A. This partnership was a great achievement for us – similar partnerships have happened featuring I-League & ISL teams, and for Sevilla FC to partner with an I-League second division team is testimony to the growing prowess of FC Bengaluru United.

"As part of the agreement, fans were able to see FC Bengaluru United in Sevilla FC’s traditional white and red colours from the start of the 2021/2022 season. Sevilla FC and FC Bengaluru United will also explore opportunities to set up shared footballing schools in Karnataka."

As part of this endeavour, Sevilla FC will assist FC Bengaluru United in various aspects such as sports management, analysis, talent spotting, player development and optimisation of performance and usage of sports technology.

Both clubs will look to utilise Bengaluru’s vast technological expertise to study and evaluate innovative projects in the world of football as well as collaborate on various corporate and social responsibility programmes in India.

Namaste India 🇮🇳Sevilla FC and @bengaluruunited have something exciting in store for you this week. Watch this space for more! 🤩#SevillaFC #FCBU #NuncaTeRindas https://t.co/IaxBYIJwDg

We will also work together on projects that address technological innovation, development and implementation in the sports industry. We will help Sevilla expand their global outreach in a vibrant footballing market like India.

To this end, some of their activations have included their crossbar challenges, a Holi contest where fans had a chance to win a T Shirt signed by a few of their players, including Ivan Rakitic.

Sevilla bring in 132 years of footballing experience into this partnership, something that a young team like ours can definitely benefit from.

It has been great to see a top European club take such a keen interest in Indian football and the market.


Q. You visited Seville in April this year and took a tour of the club. What was the visit about and how was your experience at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium?

Very grateful and honored to learn up close about the illustrious history and legacy of @SevillaFC_ENG 🙏@bengaluruunited#SevillaFC #Bengaluruunited #NimidaSports #NimidaGroup twitter.com/SevillaFC_ENG/…

A. One of the primary reasons for the visit was to have an in-person meeting with the top management at Sevilla FC – even though we signed our partnership agreement in early 2021, we were unable to meet after that, either in Seville or Bengaluru owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown restrictions.

It was a wonderful experience to travel to Seville and meet the top management at Sevilla FC – their President, CEO, Tech Lead as well as other key members of the leadership team.

"My three-day visit was filled with a lot of information exchange and ideation and it was an enlightening experience to get an insight into the workings of a top-flight European League football club."

We spoke about our long-term plans for the agreement and the road map for the next few years. We also discussed and planned the modalities for their India visit.

One of the key aspects we touched upon was the technological innovations that are an integral part of Sevilla FC’s operations. They showcased their tech prowess: How they use AI for scouting and game analysis, and it was great to see how Sevilla FC use tech to operate at the highest level.

One of the interesting things that we have planned during their visit to India is a Hackathon – for the first time, two football clubs will be coming together to launch an online Football Hackathon that will be a unique opportunity to effectively use data science in the space of professional football scouting and player performance analysis.

I also visited their academy and got a tour of the academy set-up and a keen understanding of how they operate right from the grassroots level. The hospitality was fantastic and FC Bengaluru United are looking forward to reciprocating it when Sevilla FC visit Bengaluru in June.

"They are our big brothers as we go through this entire journey and we look forward to learning from them and in turn helping them expand their brand presence in India."

The visit was also a chance to get up close and personal with Sevilla FC’s 132-year-old storied history. I visited the football museum as well as their trophy rooms and it provided a wonderful glimpse into the significance and importance of Sevilla FC in the context of Seville, the club’s home city as well as Spain.

Visiting Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium was truly amazing. The structure is a sight to behold and I also got to experience watching a live game at the stadium - Sevilla FC v Real Sociedad - which is an experience I will never forget. The stadium was packed to the rafters and the atmosphere was electric.


Q. With Sevilla FC as partners, how has grassroot development been like for FC Bengaluru United since the club's inception ? And how do you expect the knowledge sharing between the clubs to further grassroot development in India ?

Delighted to finalise our 5 year partnership agreement with Sevilla FC and official welcome them to India. Together with Sevilla FC, we can learn, grow and rise together. Stay United and Never Surrender. 👊#FCBengaluruUnited #SevillaFC #FCBUSFC #WeAreUnited #NeverSurrender twitter.com/bengaluruunite…

A. One of the key objectives when we set up FC Bengaluru United was to work towards developing football from the grassroots level. This is an important aspect of our partnership agreement with Sevilla FC.

"Ours is a five-year partnership agreement and we have begun taking small but important steps towards aligning our goals and vision. One of the important things that we will be focusing on is looking at how Sevilla FC are harnessing the power of technology and using platforms to track the progress of youth players."

During my visit, I had the chance to glean a few insights into this and look at their academy structure and allied programs. We will look to possibly set up similarly aligned facilities here in Bengaluru as well and are also in early-stage talks to look at how we could potentially build out a grassroots program in India.


Q. FC Bengaluru United and Sevilla FC also hosted the first Match Party in Bengaluru in December, which was a terrific fan engagement opportunity. What other kind of activations has FC Bengaluru United planned to engage both fanbases in the city as well as the country? Is there something in the works that FC Bengaluru United & Sevilla FC are working on in the near future?

FC Bengaluru United enters into a historic partnership with Sevilla FCWe at FCBU have a lot to learn from 130 year old and 6 time Europa League Champions, SFCLooking forward to taking Indian sport and football to new heights ! 💪#FCBU #FCBengaluruUnited #NimidaSports twitter.com/bengaluruunite…

A. The Match Party – one of the many such collaborative events planned between the two clubs – is in line with the goal of growing the Spanish brand’s footprint in one of the most vibrant football markets in the world.

"We have held two watch parties so far, and in ample testimony to its growing popularity as well as the heightened interest in the Spanish club’s performances, Sevilla fans as well as young United Academy players, started thronging the venue as early as 4 pm, well over two hours before the scheduled match kick off."

It’s heartening to see the growing interest in Sevilla FC. Football is best enjoyed when the live experience is shared with a community of like-minded fans. Seeing the increase in both the number of attendees and enthusiasm from the first Match Party to the second, shows that the footballing community in India is ready to experience such events.

We are excited and looking forward to other such collaborative events scheduled for the year ahead, where football fans can get the best of the FC Bengaluru United - Sevilla FC football experience.

"Very soon, we will also be launching Sevilla FC’s very first official Fan Club in India in Bengaluru."

Not only will this help connect India’s fans with the Sevilla FC brand, but it will also help grow the vibrant fan base for FCBU as well.


Q. Sevilla FC and FC Bengaluru United were awarded the World Football Summit Award for the Best Internationalisation Strategy last year. A significant milestone for FC Bengaluru United, what does this recognition mean in FC Bengaluru United's journey as a club?

A. This was a great honour for FC Bengaluru United. To have our partnership with Sevilin FC recognised on such a prestigious forum was a great validation of all that we had set out to achieve.

FC Bengaluru United also became the first football club from India to win a WFS Industry award and it is a moment of great pride for an Indian football club to have achieved this global recognition.

It has been part of our long-term vision to put the spotlight on Indian football and help the game grow and the award was a testimony to the fact that we are on the right path and with the right international partner as well.


Q. What is the impact FC Bengaluru United aims to have created by the completion of this partnership with Sevilla FC ? What would be defined as a successful partnership on the whole for FC Bengaluru United?

A. Much like Sevilla FC, FCBU too started from ground zero, building a club from the ground up, gradually going from strength to strength.

"We have recorded several successes in our short journey so far – back to back BDFA Super Division titles as well as a chance to participate in the prestigious Durand Cup where we finished as semi-finalists in what was our debut appearance in Asia’s oldest football tournament."

And we are excited to learn from Sevilla FC on how we can progress even further along this journey, move up the ladder and scale the heights they have. One of our key intents has always been to provide a well-mapped progression pathway for the youth talent in Bengaluru and India and we are confident that this will be another key element of our partnership.

We will look to Sevilla FC to share their tech know-how on how AI and data analytics as well as how various platforms can be used to manage the club, speed up our processes, enhance individual players as well as team performance and help us move up the ranks.

Our goal is not just to be part of the I-League but also to make a larger global impact as well, by being part of the AFC as well as other international leagues and tournaments.

The intent behind our partnership has also been to put the global spotlight on Indian football – one of the key highlights so far has been the recognition of our partnership on a global platform when we were awarded the Best Internationalisation Strategy by the prestigious World Football Summit (WFS) Awards. We hope to continue winning such awards and putting the spotlight on Indian football.

Our partnership and its achievement, we hope, will also set the stage for FC Bengaluru United becoming a use case to show just how successful international partnerships in the sporting world can be formed and developed for the benefit of both parties involved as well as for the larger good of the sport.

Our upcoming Football Hackathon is another example of the innovative development that such partnerships can achieve – the event is a global first wherein two football clubs, FC Bengaluru United and Sevilla FC, will be jointly launching a ‘Football Hackathon – Data Driven Players Performance Assessment.’

It will be a unique opportunity to effectively use data science in the space of professional football scouting and player performance analysis.

We have already notched up several key milestones in our journey and are confident of achieving many more as we move along the road map.


Q. Lastly, Bengaluru United have previously been on the cusp of sealing I-League qualification. With ISL also being an objective for the club, what is the roadmap for FC Bengaluru United in terms of establishing themselves across the country?

A. In just about four years, we have crafted a very positive growth trajectory and we can only build upwards and onwards from here. We have grabbed eyeballs – both on and off the field with our performances.

From winning the BDFA Super Division 2020-21 and reaching the semi-finals of the Durand Cup 2021 to signing up big names like Pedro Manzi & Luka Majcen, we have shown that we are a team to reckon with.

Off the field, our partnership with Sevilla FC has garnered significant interest and shows our deep commitment to contributing to the overall growth of Indian football.

Over the next few years, our primary goal will be, of course, to reach the next level of Indian football and be part of the ISL and I-League. We are also hoping to work towards and forge more partnerships that will help in the growth of football both in Bengaluru and India.


Q. Could you elaborate on the long-term vision for FC Bengaluru United with regards to the partnership with Sevilla FC?

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A. We are a young, high-performing team with a bright future, having already earned onveral plaudits in the Indian footballing circuit.

"The city and community of Bengaluru is at the heart of FCBU and it is with this foundational focus that the club intends to grow."

In accordance with this spirit, Sevilla FC will make available to us its expertise and knowledge to help us achieve fast and robust development in Indian football. To do so, Sevilla FC will export to us the success model that has won six Europa League titles, along with the respect and admiration of its peers.

In turn, Sevilla FC will look to learn and gain a better understanding of the people, culture, football, and business networks of India.

This partnership helps us place Sevilla FC within the Indian market, one that the club had marked as a strategic goal within their international expansion plans. We are excited to build local football talent with Sevilla FC ́s support and grow our club both in India and internationally.


Q. The scope for budding footballers from Bangalore and India alike will be very beneficial with interactions with a renowned International club and the stars of Sevilla FC, what's the plan of engaging them?

A. Any exchange of ideas and interaction will be of great benefit to both clubs – we have so much to learn and understand from each other.

Some of the player-related initiatives we are looking to possibly execute as we progress along the road map of our partnership include grassroots program exposure trips, which will be very much aligned to a young player’s objective of making it big at the national as well as international level.


Q. There was a Crossbar challenge last year where the top Sevilla stars faced off against the FC Bengaluru United stars, could we hope for more interactions between the sides in the future?

A. You can most certainly expect more such exciting “face-offs” between the players – after all it is important to retain and emphasise the element of fun – football is all about passion and drive as well as fun. We intend to, especially on social media, maintain and enable the fun aspect of this collaboration!

Soon after our first BDFA Super Division Championship win, we had an activation on social media with players of both teams playing Holi with their respective teams; we had Ivan Rakitic congratulating our players for the win. Recently, Sevilla FC stars Thomas Delaney and Ludwig Augustinsson shared their reactions to some of our United boys’ top goals which included Ronaldo Oliviera’s first goal against BFC in the recent BDFA Super Division.

Such interactions are really important, both from a player as well as from a fan perspective, and we are excited to keep them going.



Edited by Sijo Samuel Paul

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