How Toyota Yaris LaLiga World can open up new doors for top international clubs in India
It was five years back, in 2013, when India were awarded the rights to host the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, its first ever global football event of any stature. Ever since Indian football has been growing constantly.
However, along with this growth, the industry's needs to be more global also increases. Moreover, the audience wants high-quality football, akin to the one they witnessed during the U17 World Cup. And, perhaps, the easiest way to satisfy both needs is to invite foreign teams for pre-season tournaments -- a tool that has been widely used by several Asian and American countries.
A couple of weeks from now, and India will host it's first ever international pre-season tournament featuring foreign clubs. The tournament, Toyota Yaris LaLiga World, brings together Melbourne City FC, who finished third in the A-League last season, La Liga side Girona FC and Indian Super League (ISL) club Kerala Blasters FC.
"The vision was to bring high quality football to India and to have the fans experience international football. We want to make India as a pre-season destination for global football," says Vivek Sethia, CEO, India On Track, a partner promoter of the tournament.
The two clubs, Melbourne City and Girona (first La Liga club to come to India), are part of the same City Group that owns Premier League champions Manchester City and will be travelling to India for the first time and the tournament is sure to attract the masses. However, they do not exactly fall in the top bracket.
Sethia reveals that while the primary objective in the first edition is to ensure that the event is self-sustainable, the group aspires to bring even bigger teams to the country in future.
"As promoters of the event, we were fully responsible for bringing the two teams. This is the first edition and the priority is to make the event sustainable. For that, we had to find the right balance between the names, quality and commercial sustainability. We definitely aspire to bring bigger names in the future," he says.
The inaugural edition will be held from July 24 to July 29 in Kochi -- a city known for its football crazy fans. For Melbourne City and Girona, it will be an opportunity sign on some fans in India and build their brands which could be beneficial for both parties.
"They have a lot to gain. Building their brands in India from this event should be their priority. They have a unique opportunity to gain support here and create fans. They are playing in the best city to be able to do that -- Kerala fans are intelligent and will support good football," Sethia says.
"This will be a historic tournament. I think this will open doors for many international teams to start looking at India as a footballing destination," he continues.
Asked about how soon India might expect to witness bigger clubs like Manchester United or Barcelona, Sethia sounds confident. "For sure, bigger clubs will come in. It's a matter of time. Many have shown interest in the past but with their commercial structure, it's not easy to make financial sense of the whole thing. I think we are still a couple of years away from that happening though," he says before signing off.