ISL 2017/18: FC Pune City CEO Gaurav Modwel says that their fan engagement efforts have started bearing fruit
Gaurav Modwel, the Chief Executive Officer of ISL franchise FC Pune City and the Chairman of India On Track, believes that FC Pune City has been successful in revitalizing fan culture in the city of Pune. He spoke exclusively to Sportskeeda at The Football Movement conference organized in Mumbai by India on Track.
FC Pune City has been one of the best performing clubs in this season of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) and looks set to break their duck with playoffs qualification. This success on the pitch has been complemented by the fan support in the stands as well with the official fan base of the Stallions, the Orange Army. The Orange Army has been one of the most ardent fan support amongst the ISL franchises with the supporters traveling all across India in good numbers.
This fan support, however, was built with excruciating efforts from Modwel and his team with various fan engagement practices. Modwel says that fan engagement was one of the biggest challenges for them with history not backing them in the city of Pune that saw a measly attendance of 300-400 for Pune derbies in the Hero I-League. Now, they regularly manage to pack the 9000 capacity Balewadi Stadium with ease
Modwel recalls one fan meet with key players of the FC Pune City side during the Season 2 of the ISL. The meet was planned by the management to attract fans and they were disappointed when only 21 people showed up for the event. This propelled them to go back to the drawing board and rethink their fan engagement practices.
They started with a hashtag on various social platforms, #EachOneTwentyOne that asked the Pune fans to garner 21 more supporters amongst the peers and thus, increase the fan base. They created Whatsapp and Facebook groups to keep sharing the franchise-related content and keep conversations going about football and slowly, but steadily managed to build what is the Orange Army now.
FC Pune City also has a focus on the development of players at a young age with a residential academy based in Pune that houses teams across all age categories. Modwel stresses the point that when they took over the academy from Pune FC, they did a complete overhaul of the system with radical changes. They brought in qualified coaches, introduced a girls team and provided state-of-the-art facilities. They aim to continue to develop great Indian talent who can play a part in the ISL for them in the future.
Speaking about the Football Movement conference organized by India on Track, Modwel insists that though we can learn professionalism, transparency, and fan-centricity from the Premier League, we need to be able to apply them in the Indian football context. Modwel said that The Football Movement conference that brings together people from various aspects of the industry and has provided a platform for the thought leaders in the country to share, discuss and exchange ideas for the development of the sport in the country.