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Why soccer needs India soon!

Why soccer needs India soon!
Highlights

With the new phrase of EPL (English Premier League) “halla bol” becoming a massive hit among youngsters there is a sudden and new found...

The new found pay channels are minting money at the behest of ardent fans. It is more intriguing to know that players are treated as investments and clubs are openly splurging money to acquire the best talent

With the new phrase of EPL (English Premier League) “halla bol” becoming a massive hit among youngsters there is a sudden and new found love for the largest sporting event. Since the new ad has been hitting the sports channels more frequently, the essence of the message seems to have percolated down.

Yes, the EPL fever is now set to grip the Indian youth. Even school going kids who do not have a clue about the Premier League are vouching their allegiance to some club several thousand miles away, just because their favourite colour matches the jersey of a particular club. Even shops selling the customised merchandise of the English Premier Clubs are becoming popular in metros. The soccer fever and the love for the game are meandering over the Indian peninsula. This makes perfect sense for the game too, at least from the business angle.

Though India is known for its frantic love for the game of cricket, slowly people are moving towards other sports, and soccer tops the list without any exception. Of major soccer leagues in Europe, the EPL is slowly impinging the Indians sports channels with the ads popularising live matches, now with commentary in Hindi too. Apart from the EPL, live matches of other leagues such as La Liga (Spanish), the Seria A (Italian) and the Bundesliga (German) are shown on various sports channels in India. It clearly indicates their ability to garner the support of high end sponsors.

On the business front, the deadline for transfer of players, through selling, buying or loaning out has just finished on September 2, 2013. Real Madrid, the Spanish Giants in the history of soccer, bought Gareth Bale, the 24-year-old Welsh player from the English football club Tottenham Hotspurs for a whopping 100 million Euros (around Rs 700 crores). This event has caught the attention of both the media and fans for the sizable amount of money, more so, when Spain is currently reeling under global economic crisis.

Viewing it from the business side, it makes perfect sense for the Club and its sponsors. This transfer has also some financial implications as most soccer clubs are outliving their incomes. Special treatment offered by the Spanish revenue system and the neglect of the governing bodies together resulted in debt-ridden Spanish football clubs.

It might be interesting at this juncture to learn about the scale of the commercial activity carried out by the soccer clubs. With the business ambitions of the clubs taking an upper hand, several critics feel that the present trend doesn’t improve the sporting values and they even fail to add community spirit to it. In fact, major sports have gradually transformed into one dominating entertainment industry. With the satellite channels vying for the exclusive rights for the coverage and broadcast, this industry has become lucrative too.

The new found pay channels are minting money at the behest of ardent fans. It is more intriguing to know that players are treated as investments and clubs are openly splurging money to acquire the best talent. This has developed into a big market, where players are mere products rather than sportsmen where a bunch of people are trying to get commission over their sale. As more agreements worth $8.5 billion are stuck with various television networks the revenues of clubs are raising. Further a huge influx of owners from Russia and Middle East has resulted in seven-fold increase in spending by these clubs. As the player joins the new club, even his sponsors become party to the club.

Football clubs across the globe are exploring ways to boost their depleting income. As a part of financial revamping, Real Madrid is planning to expand the existing capacity of the stadiums and focus on construction of lavish multi-layered seats and world class restaurants. Even it is not making the entire payment to the Spurs in a single go. It is following the strategy of settling the payment amount over a period of 6 years.

Real is planning to recover the money through the sale of jerseys and commercial deals. Being the richest soccer club in the world, it is trying to build and enhance its brand image and make an emphatic statement about its scale and power. In the process, it is only obvious that it is making huge investments in terms of buying world class players and offering galactic wages.

European football clubs obsessed with the dream run of image building have resorted to irrational spending and thus reeling under the burden of accumulated debts. Having realised the urgent need to overhaul their financial status has come up with a two-pronged approach -- viewership and sponsorship. They are now trying to popularise the game among the youngsters with the result there are several ads promoting the game through youth icons. Manchester United has signed a contract with its loyal fan MS Dhoni for a period of three years to act as its brand ambassador and trying to draw the popular support. In addition to it they are trying to woo people through commentaries in Hindi.

Day is not far off when Indians can watch football match with commentary in their regional languages and Rooney, Gerrard, Terry might become common household names as Tendulkar, Dhoni and Kohli. If EPL can catch Indian vein, sponsorships are bound to come and consequently their financial statement will naturally tilt towards surplus. European football clubs are trying to set up training centres in collaboration with various schools in metros. Thus they are invariably applying all the tricks of trade to win over the robust consumer market in India and China as well.

In India the genesis of IPL (Indian Premier League), HIL (Hockey Indian League) and the recently concluded IBL (Indian Badminton League) have emulated the English Premier League in the basic structure and functioning. With a vast viewership base available in India, it makes perfect sense for Indian businessmen and corporates to sponsor and reap huge commercial benefits. May this new craze for Soccer might succour the abysmal state of Indian sports and a new sporting phenomenon appears to emerge.

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