Digital Transformation

Why it is the right time for English Premier League clubs to increase investment in India

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By Taruka Srivastav | Reporter

May 10, 2017 | 6 min read

A “sleeping football giant which is now waking up slowly” is how former FIFA president Sepp Blatter described India during his trip in 2010 and it seems it's starting to wake up.

Indian Super League (ISL) recorded record viewership this year and made ISL the second most watched sport after cricket in India. The icing on the cake is that the Indian national football team have recent officially entered the top 100, according to the Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) rankings of May 2017. They are ranked exactly on 100th position.

Premier League

Why it is the ripe and right time for EPL Clubs to increase investments in India

With FIFA World Cup U-17 happening later this year in India, India will finally have a chance to make an impact in the football realm at the global level. India’s growing market has not only attracted tech giants but sporting giants as well. The reason being India’s population of 1.311 billion. The question left is whether this is the right time for global football clubs to invest in India.

Rishish Dubey, founder of Madhya Bharat Sports Club, which recently partnered with Celtic FC, said he believes that it's the right time for any club to invest in Football in India. The Premier League in England had particularly made its name because of television broadcasting in the country.

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He said, “The followers of the league have increased. EPL investing now is a win-win situation for both India and themselves. With FIFA world cup u-17 scheduled to be played on India later this year, and more and more players wanting to become professional footballers, it's time to help them achieve their dreams. The country has proven time and again that if any one comes here with the right intention, they are loved. And the football giant is waiting for someone to come. I think this is not just the right time, it's ripe time."

EPL teams are already tailoring their content to feed the need of their audiences in different parts of the world. They are partnering with local brands and corporates to disseminate information and stream matches. They are targeting OTT’s and broadcasters so that the Indian fans can watch the games.

Veqta partnered with MCFC to get exclusive content to MCFC fans in India . Veqta co- founder, Vikram Tawar, said: " Cricket is the number one sport in India but there is now an increasing appetite for other popular sports in the country. In the last decade itself there has been an advent of leagues across sports like football, kabaddi, wrestling and badminton."

He further added: "In parts of the country the football following is huge [north east, Kerala and West Bengal] and now with there is an increasing popularity for the sport with the youth of the country. Indian Super League (ISL) is a recent example of growing popularity of the worlds most loved game in India. The EPL clubs realise the potential of India with its billion plus strong population. In fact, many clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and MCFC are already increasing their presence in the country via partnerships. Veqta itself is engaging with some of these clubs for potential partnerships. Yes, this is the right time for these clubs to invest in India."

The key for EPL clubs is revenue and bringing Indian fans on board will enable an increase in the advertising opportunities for sponsors. This would lead to tie-ups with Indian companies, which are a previously untapped source. New opportunities are presented in India as being a very good prospect, due to historic links with Britain and English as a second language, which is a problem if they plan to market in other large countries like China.

The Drum asked Baljit Rihal chief executive officer of Inventive Sports, a football agent, whether the marketing and sponsorship opportunities are in abundance for big clubs in India. He, said: "If there was an El Clasico (FC Barcelona v Real Madrid) in Kerala, I am quite certain the tickets would be sold out within a day. Messi and Ronaldo are household names and those two alone would spark marketing and sponsorship frenzy in India. Other clubs with massive Indian fan followings are Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea and it is them who to stand to gain the most from delving even further into the Indian market."

The investment for development needs to happen from the ground-up and that is from grass root levels. Clubs like Real Madrid and Celtic FC have already established a grass root program.

Varun Chopra, co-owner of Minerva Punjab FC (an I-League Cup), believes that the grassroots coaching in India is a huge opportunity for the EPL clubs to explore. He said: “The lack of quality coaching or licensed coaches has a huge void to be filled. The lack of grassroots tournaments also doesn't help the cause. We need exposure at all levels, be it theory session or tournaments, and the EPL structures will help strengthen our cause. Their coaching structures, along with exposure during matches and tournaments, is very essential for the growth of Indian football.”

Now with the FIFA World Cup U-17 happening, the time couldn't be better for EPL clubs to enter the Indian market as it shall build a better brand value in Asia and fan engagement will be at its peak.

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