The world had stopped for months as we saw the deadly virus, COVID-19 spread across the globe. Along with every other sector, the field of sports had also come to a halt. But as soon as the situation got better, the world started to function normally. As a result, we saw the daily routine commence slowly with the field of sports also resumed.
But as a precaution, the matches were played behind closed doors, meaning no spectators or live audience were allowed in the stadium. However, after almost a year of playing behind closed doors, the organizers managed to allow 50% capacity for the games. But now with the vaccine available and the virus coming under control, everything seems to be back to normal.
However, the same cannot be said about Indian football as we can clearly see in front of our eyes the difference between what football and cricket mean in India. As we all know that currently, the Indian Super League is going on along with the Indian cricket team taking on New Zealand in a home series.
But what many people have failed to glue their eyes on is that one sport is played without spectators in the stadium while another one has seen 100% filled seats. The three-match T20I series was played in full 100% capacity. The first Test match between India and New Zealand in Kanpur was played in full attendance. In the second Test, only 25% of total capacity was allowed, as a precautionary measure due to the new variant Omicron. Following this, we can state that we live in two India, where cricket is seen as a religion, where one sport is being played behind closed doors while another one is with full attendance.
ISL behind closed doors while India vs New Zealand with an audience – A harsh truth
The Indian Super League was played behind closed doors in the last season, which was logical then as there was a huge rise in the COVID-19 cases. But to witness the same scenario now makes us scratch our head as, on the other side, India vs New Zealand series has been welcoming audiences in huge numbers.
If the country can see a game of cricket in the stadium with people maintaining the COVID protocols, then the same can be done with football. As we cannot see any logic in holding the top-flight Indian football league behind closed doors due to the coronavirus.
The lack of audience in the stadium is taking away a massive business opportunity.
Gate Ticket – A major income for the organisers
In today’s world everything has come down to business and the same has happened to sports. However, it is essential in recent times as everything comes at a cost and it has to be paid by money.
The same goes for sports, as the audience comes to watch a match live in the stadium they have to pay some money to buy the tickets. While apart from sponsorships and partnerships, ticket sales play a major role in terms of the income of any sports competition.
Among the 11 clubs currently participating in the ISL, there are Kerala Blasters, ATK Mohun Bagan, SC East Bengal, North-East United, and Bengaluru FC who have a huge fan base and would travel anywhere in the country to see their favourite club’s play live. However, they have to wait for that to happen until the ISL chiefs review the situation about allowing spectators in the stadium in the second phase of the eighth season of the ISL.
Apurv Dhumal, the owner of a popular sports new website (which he wishes to keep unnamed), said, “If BCCI understands the importance of fans, so should have AIFF and ISL organisers. They should have been progressive with the planning. Measures like allowing only vaccinated fans in stadium could have been followed.”
He added “The bigger aim to popularize football gets missed without fans. Without fans, how will Indian Football grow?”
The money generated through gate tickets can be spent in propagating the sport and the competition to another level.
Will the difference between football and cricket in India end in the near future?
The people of the country can guess what’s the situation of Indian football when the captain of the Indian football team, Sunil Chhetri had to urge and plead with the people of the country to come and support the players in the stadium.
The situation about Indian football will take more years to develop despite ISL and other football leagues trying to leave a major mark. The people in this country worship and see the game of cricket as a religion. But all the blame cannot be put upon the audiences, as somewhat the opinion about cricket being a religion is set by the broadcasters.
The selling of the media rights of a cricket competition takes place on a huge scale, which is justified due to the fan following of the sport in the nation.
The introduction of ISL in 2014, has been successful in changing the mindset of the people regarding Indian football. While legendary foreign players and big foreign investment have played a major role in Indian football development. However, Indian football still has a marathon to run as it aims to place its name beside cricket in India.