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Soccerex: India Workshop speaks about Opportunities

The Soccerex European Forum 2012 was held in Manchester on Wednesday/Thursday this week with leading figures of European and world football attending. And once more India was on the Soccerex agenda with an 'Emerging Markets' workshop solely focusing on...

The Soccerex European Forum 2012 was held in Manchester on Wednesday/Thursday this week with leading figures of European and world football attending. And once more India was on the Soccerex agenda with an ‘Emerging Markets’ workshop solely focusing on Indian football was held yesterday morning, on the second day of the Forum.

The focus of the India workshop was to highlight the unique business opportunities for football in India and Indian football. The session was moderated by Sukhvinder Singh (MD Libero Sports) with AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das, Vishwajeet Kadam (Secretary of Bharati Vidyapeeth University & AKFDC), Mario De Vivo (Inter Milan CCO), Jefferson Slack (IMG-Reliance, IMG Football Division head) and Rajpal Singh (Additional Director FICCI Sports Committee) on the panel.

AIFF General Secretary started with his three highlights over the recent past which he hoped would guarantee a better future for Indian football. The first point was the participation of India in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, the second point being the landmark 15 year deal between the AIFF and IMG-Reliance to market the game, while the third point was the development plans being put in place by the AIFF with the support from FIFA. He mentioned the four Regional Academies set to open in June/July with four more to open in mid-2013 and the Elite Academy, besides the appointment of Dutchman Rob Baan as Technical Director besides India’s bid to host the 2017 Under-17 World Cup.

Vishwajeet Kadam spoke about the general rise of Sports in India. Especially football was seeing an unseen growth with the sport being especially popular amongst the youth with his own organisation Bharati Vidyapeeth in talks with European clubs to have an Academy for Under-10 to U-17 kids combining education and sports.

IMG’s Jeff Slack said, “IMG-Reliance are excited about India. This is the reason why we signed a 15 year deal with the AIFF, while we also have a 30 year deal with the Basketball Federation of India.”

Jeff Slack spoke about the 16 India Under-15 boys currently training at the IMG Academy in Florida, about their trip to Brazil, where they even impressed coaches over there. He also termed the Indian media market as very competitive, where Indian football would have to fight for its place.

But Jeff Slack summed it up with, “Indians love football! India can play football,” and added, “IMG-Reliance has made investments for the future.”

But as Kushal Das said, “There are challenges. The biggest one is infrastructure. But if India get to host the 2017 Under-17 World Cup, then hopefully the government reacts to put the necessary infrastructure in place.”

The panel did not discuss the current ongoing problems of the I-League though Jeff did mention that the I-League faced structural problems and challenges.

The people present at the workshop were made to understand that Cricket is the biggest sport in India, but there was cricket fatigue in India due to nonstop cricket.

The Premier League Soccer was a hot topic in Manchester, but the panel seemed to want to avoid this topic until in the Q&A session a question about the PLS was asked. AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das confirmed that the proposed PLS is ‘definitely dead’ for this season and about its future said, “What is next we do not know.”

On the PLS topic Jeff Slack said, “The PLS initially concerned me especially due to the global media interest,” but didn’t go further into the topic.

Though the workshop was held on an international platform for mainly international listeners it had a definite Indian touch, sometimes going a little offtrack. But the session did show that Indian football has many opportunities though facing a lot of problems and especially the bureaucracy is a massive drawback for development.

Published with permission from Arunava Chaudhuri.

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