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Why India can be the biggest football market by 2025

There is a huge football fan base that is ever growing in the country

United have a huge fan following in the country

India has never been this football crazy. Over the past decade, there certainly has been a huge rise in the popularity of the sport across the nation. Yes, cricket still grips the hearts of the countrymen with the likes of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni proving to be wonderful ambassadors for the sport

But football is slowly making it’s way into the limelight in the country. But it’s not Indian football that’s been making headway. The fanbase has taken to European football in a big way. The swagger and the quality of the sport being played at Europe’s biggest clubs is like eye candy for Indian fans.

The Premier League was the first to really tap into the vast market in our country. The traditional ‘BIG FOUR’ of English football, ‘Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United’ triggered the craze and it has only caught on from then.

I-League has also received more viewership in the last few years in large part due to the popularity of the sport. But the real green lies in English and Spanish football. The Premier league already does a lot of marketing, but La Liga’s big two of Real Madrid and Barcelona have an Indian fanbase that cannot be matched by even the biggest countries in the world.

What the numbers say:

MSN have propelled Barcelona to one of the most popular teams in the world
CountryArsenalManchester UnitedChelseaLiverpoolBarcelonaReal Madrid
India2.8M5.4M3.6M2M8.2M8.2M
UK2.9M3.2M1.9M2.6M2.3M2.6M
USA1.5M2.9M1.9M.65M7.3M6.3M
France2M0.93M0.85M0.53M2.5M2.6M
Australia0.28M0.41M0.29M0.44M0.43M0.33M
Spain0.3M0.57M0.91M.41M3.5M3.3M

The numbers represented above in the table is based on Facebook data. It shows the number of fans for the major clubs in England and Spain across the biggest countries in the world. Indian is on top for most clubs listed above.

Most of these fans are primarily from the metros across the country i.e Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai. This is another reason as to why there is huge market that is just crying out to be exploited.

In the last couple of years, Puma have attempted to create a niche market for Arsenal football club and their fans. If you have noticed, during the major festive holidays of the county Puma and Arsenal collaborated to release videos on Diwali and Holi.

They have also managed to bring in former players to interact with fans in the country. Other clubs might follow suit and this is just scraping the surface of the numerous financial possibilities.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have to take a look at this and question what they can do to penetrate into the market of  16.4 million people.  The Messi-Ronaldo rivalry has obviously been a huge factor in the sky-rocketing of that number but it shows what they’ re missing out on.

India is an unsaturated market

As mentioned before, the data is based on social media i.e Facebook mining. Most of the social media users are from metros and the number is growing each day. This number is only a representation of people who follow the clubs on Social Media but not the ones who are fans but are not as active.

Add to that the number of potential users who will join the digital age and the fact that the new generation will soon follow in the footsteps of the current football fanatic and you’ve got yourselves a large and diverse audience that you cannot find anywhere else in the world.

Bayern Munich have also made an attempt to attract the Indian crowd by playing exhibition matches in the country. But they haven’t had the kind of support Barcelona and Real Madrid can boast, all the more reason for them to pursue this venture.

The US and UK markets are probably saturated considering a large percentage of their population is already on social media. According to a report, only 33% of people live in cities across India, so the social media scene is still in it’s relative infancy.

There is also the added advantage 

What threatens the growth of football in the nation

Football might be gaining popularity but there are still underlying and visible problems that might blur the big picture clubs are trying to look at. The first one is obviously the standard of the sport. 

Grassroots is a major part of development in any sport and India lacks the right training that has to be applied at a young stage in order to ensure a smooth transition to international football. 

There is also concern about the infrastructure for the sport. Most stadiums have not been approved by FIFA. The publicity from the U-17 World Cup next season should help but there is a lot of scope for improvement.

The ISL is a step in the right direction but after the revamp of the I-League and ISL into a three league system further observation will have to be made to completely understand if the move will pay off or not.

China is also a nation that poses a threat to the sport’s monetization in India. The Chinese Super League are spending big bucks to bring in some prime European and international talent.

But the advantage of Indians being well versed with the English language can help make the transition easier for foreign investors, which is something China are still lagging behind. 

Conclusion

While focus on improving Indian football is the priority, the existing following for English and Spanish football are signs of encouragement that the sport’s popularity is set to eclipse that of previous decades.

Lack of progress of the sport within our own country will not and should not discourage European countries to put their stamp on the nation's economy. We can only expect a positive impact from foreign club investment and by 2025 our country might just be the next big football market.





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