Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting' can provide a financial boost to the Indian Super League
The Indian Super League has seen a steady fall in attendance since its inception in 2014. Average stadium attendance has fallen from 26,000 in 2014, the highest in Asia, to 14,801 in 2017-18. The sharp drop in numbers prompted Star India to launch a new campaign called “Fan Banna Padega” (You need to become a fan) to boost viewership and increase the number of ISL fans.
In this campaign, the celebrity team owners urge Indian fans of European football clubs to start watching the ISL and aid the development of Indian football.
"The Hero ISL stands for the realization of a dream, the dream for millions of Indians to experience and understand the essence of Indian football. Season 5 of the Hero Indian Super League is all set to usher in a new, refreshed wave of enthusiasm in India’s emerging appetite for football.
It is this essence that fuelled the introduction of the #FanBannaPadega campaign for Season 5 of the Hero Indian Super League, bringing football fans in the country together to support their heroes, their team, and their nation," said a Star India spokesperson on the launch of the campaign.
The campaign is a welcome realization and aims to address the problem that afflicts Indian football. However, the next wave of supporters to the ISL could come from the legacy clubs - Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting' who have a massive pan India support base.
Fans are key to generating more income- endorsements, advertisements, and sponsorships. The more fans a team has, the more people they will draw to television sets, the more money it will generate. The bottom line is football has become a business more than anything else and clubs want their fans to engage in consumerism with their sponsors so that those sponsors keep coming back.
As per ET estimates, the operational cost of running a franchise is anywhere between `Rs. 25 crore-`35 crore per year. On an average, they currently earn `Rs. 8 crore-`12 crore from sponsorships, `Rs. 1.5 crore-`3 crore from ticket sales and `Rs. 4 crore-`5 crore in revenue share from the central revenue pool.
Broadcast revenue, which is the biggest source of revenue for all clubs worldwide, is yet to kick in and it will be a while before ISL clubs start earning money from broadcasting contracts. In the absence of broadcast revenue, the challenge for the ISL will be to expand the internal sponsorship pool and the central revenue pool. The traditional clubs with their pan India presence could entice sponsors to invest in the league and help grow the central revenue pool.
Once the pie becomes bigger and clubs start generating more income, owners will look to buy better foreign players. Foreign players have played a big part in drawing fans to the stadiums and reduced spending on quality foreign players may have impacted the average attendance figures. The success of the league will eventually be dependent on the quality of players; the ability to attract top global talent.
The ISL currently has three leading commercial associates – title sponsors Hero MotoCorp, along with associate sponsors Maruti Suzuki and DHL Express. Title sponsor Hero MotoCorp last year had extended their association with the league in a 160 crore ($25 million), three-year deal. That is still below the 300 crores ($45 million), five-year deal that Chinese smartphone brand Vivo paid to acquire the title rights of the Pro Kabaddi League. Apart from the financial challenge, ISL now faces a big challenge from Pro Kabaddi League, which has emerged as the second most-watched professional sports league behind the IPL.
Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are close to joining to ISL and these two giants will definitely help garner significant television audience.
Mohammedan Sporting' is still a long way from realizing that status. Despite its glorious past, the club has been on a downward spiral over the decades. Blame it on, lack of vision, foresight or professionalism.
However, Mohammedan Sporting' can still draw in the crowds and stir up passion.
"Recently, in a small tournament in Mau, some 100 km north of Banaras. Over 30,000 people turned up on hearing Mohammedan Sporting had come." Bilal Ahmed Khan, a long-time club administrator told the Times of India.
In the next round of expansions, maybe Mohammedan Sporting Club could be brought in as a franchise from Hyderabad. The club has a rich legacy and a strong resonance in the southern city. What it needs is; strong corporate involvement and a healthy dose of professionalism to revive its fortunes.
There are many within the country and many others around the globe who would love to see Mohammedan Sporting among India's football elites and it will definitely 'usher in a new, refreshed wave of enthusiasm in India’s emerging appetite for football'.