Following the footsteps of the Indian Premier League (IPL), franchisee-based tournaments have become the new style of Indian sports in which Indian Super League (ISL) is the new entrant. Similar to the cash-rich IPL, the football league which is set to be innagurated this Sunday consists of eight teams backed by corporates, movie stars and cricketers.
But, Utsav Parekh, co-owner, Atletico De Kolkata is ready to forget the balance sheets for the moment and concentrate more on the development of the game. Speaking to Business Standard on Thursday, Parekh said, “We certainly know that it is not going to make any money atleast for the first three years. There will be losses. But, we have not done this only with a money-making mentality. There is a willingness to do something for the improvement of the game in this country and for Bengal, in particular.”
Saying that football has become popular in the country with the international leagues being shown on television, Parekh expected that the game would enjoy a huge sponsorship market in India.
“ISL provides an opportunity to tap the huge sponsorship market of India. Though it will not be easy, it will happen in the coming years,” he said.
A sports league like ISL which encourages city-based rivalry could be a lucrative potential market for merchandise. The city-based Kolkata Knight Riders sold merchandise worth Rs 8 crore in the first season of IPL.
Parekh though feels it will take some time for it to develop in India. “Initially this will not be a big business, but may be three to four years down the line, there will be a huge market for it,” he said.
Though finding sponsors is not an easy task in a sports like football, the Kolkata franchisee has been able to gain sponsors this season. Aircel and Apollo Munich have has signed a one-year deal as the jersey-sponsors of the team. Parekh said that the franchisee was also in the final stage of identifying more sponsors.
While the Kolkata is one of the costliest franchisees of the tournament, Parekh said the ticket price have been deliberately kept low so that it is in sync with the I-league and affordable to all sports lovers. ” Instead of looking at an instant profit, we are giving at a lower price to make the event a family-experience,” he said.
Kolkata being considered as the soccer capital of the country, with an established support base for the game, Parekh is optimistic that the franchisee would be able to “fire up the imagination of the people and turn it into a successful venture.”