Leap From ISL To Main Stream Will Be Challenging

Tuesday, 4 November 2014|Satyaki Das

With the advent of ISL, there are many variants of supporters:


Class 1: Who thinks ISL will completely eliminate the main stream football (I-League, Federation Cup etc.)


Class 2: If the ISL teams merge with the main stream arena, it will spell doomsday for the age-old names of Indian soccer. Teams like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Salgaocar and Dempo will soon be out of business.


Class 3: Who thinks ISL is more fun than serious business and finds entertainment; but no mental bondage with ISL.


Whether ISL will genuinely be the magic genie for Indian football can only be answered if we wait long enough. It has taken a bold first step and proved to the world that with right blend of professionalism and management, football can become a household commodity.


Even though for a brief period, it was able to stir the attention of national and global media to wake up and take notice that the game in played in India. That said, in the next phase we deliberate on the three notions that are stated at the top – which we think is partially correct and can be debated.


At the moment, the ISL teams are looking into the ‘gravy’ business. It is like a 100 m sprint that will last for about 10 second, and has everyone’s attention. The difference in taking a leap into the mainstream soccer is as much between a short sprint and a marathon.


A marathon may not be as glamorous and there are phases in which the runner will go completely unnoticed, but careful planning at the back end will need to continue 365 X 24 X 7.


To take a leap into the mainstream, the ISL teams will need to fulfill the AFC and FIFA’s licensing criteria; which in many aspect is “non-profit making and pain staking”. Investment in age-based teams, and continuing infrastructure is a long term value addition (if done properly), but will cause a drain in short term.


The glamour and shine can easily last for 2-3 months, but to orchestrate a similar show all the year round, year after year is utopian. Maintaining a similar squad for the whole year will mean additional expense and many ex-players, who came out of retirement ‘partially’, need to be in operation “full-time”.


Whether the celebrity football stars will like to reside in India will also come in question. The players etc. will be subject to high rate of income taxes, and that will mean added operational expense for the teams.


And lastly, the show that we are now witnessing offers different rules and Indian to foreigner mix – the game will change significantly when regular laws are to be followed.


By all accounts, even with the gravy part; it is projected that the franchises will break even in 5-6 years. So, given the additional drain, that period may not be viable business alternative for these teams (if they want to maintain a similar model).


On the contrary, AIFF (and whoever runs the mainstream show) must take notice of the 7 PM start and the quality of telecast for ISL. There are several ways to invigorate the main stream football in India. The traditional Indian clubs suffer from lack of funds and literally hang a begging bowl in front of their gate.


With proper marketing, the pie can be enlarged and the teams can be provided with a share of TV rights. The teams also need to take ownership of arranging and marketing their own games, that way they can be in control of ticket pricing and promotions to raise their revenue.


AIFF can also increase the advertisement revenue from the games and start sharing it with the teams. This is a money spinning wheel – more input begets more out with careful planning and stimulating.


At my end, it is indeed delightful to log in to www.starplus.com and watch the games.


The quality of telecast has been first grade. I will hope that, come December, I will not have to scavenge the internet through hahasports or alike, for getting a half-baked cake, which will often be interrupted by people strolling in front of the camera.