The statement from I-League organisers on December 22 was farcical to say the least. Terming the tournament ‘top flight football league’, it said that ‘they were recently informed’ by Star Sports, the ‘exclusive’ broadcaster would telecast a select 30 matches from December 29.
The clubs, most of them fighting for survival amid the constant pressure, vehemently protested the decision. They had some concrete reasons to do so. In fact, in our democratic country, everybody is free to express their emotions. But like what happens with most of the cases, their voices were not heard.
Some quick actions were made. Clubs got together against the All Indian Football Federation, started an intensive social media campaign and in a hastily arranged press conference, a four-point charter was made, which was sent to the governing body.
But it was statement that raised questions. How can on earth, the matches of a top flight football league, be curtailed midway into the season by the so-called ‘exclusive’ broadcaster? Imagine what would happen if BT Sport does this to English Premier League, or beIN Sports does this to La Liga? Forget European football, even all football matches of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal are being shown on TV.
On the contrary, the Indian Super League, being a franchise-based tournament, gets all the attention, with their matches being shown on prime time. Not even a single match is curtailed or time tweaked.
As 2019 approaches, Sportskeeda presents you five questions that needs to be answered:
#5 Why is the I-League a soft target?
The National Football League started in 1997 but it hardly had any direct telecast. With only few important matches being shown live on DD Sports, fans had to go the stadium to watch the matches. It was only in 2007 the league was renamed as I-League and made professional. AIFF and Zee Sports reached in a 10-year-deal in which the latter decided to telecast half of the matches of the total league.
Despite increasing popularity, the deal didn’t continue beyond three years, thanks to the poor marketing from the AIFF. Ten Sports was soon roped in and the bitter-sweet relationship continued for seven long years. Fans were happy after Star Sports took over this season but the shocker came even before the year.
Star Sports has not for single time flashed an advertisement for any I-League matches this season. In case of an ISL matches, it shows at least 20 times on any average day. Ten Sports at least had the courtesy to let the fans know about the future matches.
It has been said that the I-League matches doesn’t generate much revenue. But not once was the TRP numbers were released by the broadcasters. It also has a very good attendance rate. In the first gameweek, 29,000 people turned up for the Gokulam Kerala game. The North-East derby was watched by around 15,000 people.
If the matches are not telecast, it will be extremely difficult for the clubs to find sponsors. Of course, nobody will want to invest if there is no marketing. In this case, Minerva Punjab will be the worst hit as only one of their matches will be shown on TV. We are not keeping Indian Arrows, supported by the AIFF and Odisha government, on this list.
Despite being successful every season without any marketing, I-League has always been soft target without any reasons. AIFF president Praful Patel, during ISL launch, had said I-League will be the premier tournament of the country. Like always, we have been fooled again.