India is a country with a population of over one billion along with an ardent interest in the field of sports. However, when we talk about sports in India, the first picture that we get in our head is cricket, which has a massive fan following in the country, it is also considered as a religion here.
But among that mighty standing, there is football, which is slowly climbing the ladder to reach the same level as cricket in the country. But it is for sure that it will take some time to reach the destination, but the journey has already started.
Before 2014, we had some major football leagues organized throughout the country, such as I-League, Calcutta Football League, National Football league, and many more.
Since the 2014 season, the football viewership has seen an immense rise as the Indian Super League announced its arrival. Indian football has started its new journey since the commencement of ISL, it has changed the whole market or the structure of football in India.
Before 2014 there was hardly any foreign sponsor or partner seen tying up with the Indian football clubs or investing in the Indian football market. But as Nita Ambani implicated her idea and started ISL in 2014, there has been a rise of foreign investors in the Indian football market.
Major foreign associations in Indian football:
FC Goa and RB Leipzig:
FC Goa joined its hands with the Bundesliga side just ahead of the 2020/21 ISL season. Following this deal, Leipzig promised to train and polish the skills of the Indian young football talents. While the club also promised to fly those talents to Germany and train them on-site with the club’s facilities and coaches. However, it was not possible due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Hyderabad FC and Borussia Dortmund:
The Bundesliga giants, Borussia Dortmund signed a two-year partnership in 2020 with ISL club, Hyderabad FC. While the deal also has an option to extend it until 2025. The partnership involves the Bundesliga giants helping and supporting Hyderabad FC in its academy and coaching education. While it also involves Dortmund providing new technology and positively growing and expanding its fan base in India.
Mumbai City FC and City Football Group:
The City Football Group acquired a 65 per cent stake of the Mumbai City FC in 2019, taking the ISL club under its wings. Following this deal, the Indian club became the eighth club that now falls under the CFG, along with the Premier League champions, Manchester City.
Atletico de Kolkata and Atletico Madrid:
ATK was one of the first ISL clubs to enter into a partnership with a European club. The Spanish side bought a 25 per cent stake in the Kolkata-based club. In the agreement, Atletico also provided technical expertise and helped in squad building. While the players also visited Atletico’s training facilities in Spain, during the pre-season. However, unfortunately, the partnership ended in 2016.
Bengaluru FC and Rangers FC:
The former ISL champions, Bengaluru FC signed a two-year deal with the Scottish Premiership side, Rangers FC in 2019. The deal was mainly initiated by Rangers as they wanted to explore the Indian football market and wanted to grow its international fan base. While signing as a scouting partner, Rangers also identify some best talents in the country and sent them for better training.
Odisha FC and Watford FC:
The Premier League outfit landed a partnership with the Indian club Odisha FC in a three-year deal. Following this, Watford has emerged as the international partner of the Odisha-based club. While Watford will be helping Odisha FC in developing their youth side and also provide coaching classes for the club coaches, apart from the footballing aspect, Watford will also be keeping an eye on the non-footballing aspect of Odisha FC.
Apart from these major deals, there are some more deals where foreign clubs have invested in the Indian football market. Some of the other deals are, FC Bengaluru United partnering with Sevilla, Chennai City partnering with FC Basel, former ISL club FC Pune City partnering with Fiorentina, DSK Shivajians partnering with Liverpool, East Bengal partnering with Leicester City.
Why there is a major rise in foreign investment in the Indian football market?
India is the second-largest populated country after China, following which we can easily label the country as one of the biggest markets in the world. However, it has been a big market for a long time, so why is there a boom recently in foreign investment in Indian football?
The answer is the rise in the popularity of football, since the inception of ISL, the football lovers of the country eagerly wait to watch exciting matches. While the recent development in technology, people can now watch matches anywhere and anytime through their mobiles. The massive amount of people tuning in for a game of football provides business opportunities for the broadcasters as well as sponsors. The number of foreign investments in the past couple of years in the Indian top-flight showcases that the paradigm of Indian football has been shifted.
Foreign investors are investing in several different prospects and levels. ISL getting featured in the world-famous football game series FIFA would top the list. While Mumbai City FC roping EA Sports and Expo Dubai as sponsors will be the second big news. On Thursday, the Mumbai-based club became the first Indian football team to form an Esports team for FIFA Global Series.
All of these big investments in the Indian football market can be credited to the popularity of ISL. The business and revenue generation opportunities also motivate regular fans and supporters to keep following the sport. Due to the commercialization of the sport in the country, the young aspiring football players would have a smooth road to walk on in the future.