New Delhi: IMG-Reliance, the commercial partners of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), were set to unveil the blueprint of the ambitious franchise-based football tournament here on Thursday.
AIFF and IMG-R, which had formed a committee to plan the eight-team tournament to be played from January 14-March 13, were due to make a presentation to the AIFF executive committee.
AIFF president Praful Patel, secretary general Kushal Das and I-League chief executive Sunando Dhar are also on the tournament committee.
“IMG-R will be presenting their plans for the tournament and the modalities will be worked out by the executive committee,” Das said on Wednesday.
Das said that the committee may also discuss the issue of I-League clubs refusing to release their players for the tournament.
36 players signed?
A top official of IMG-R told IANS that they have already signed 36 players and talks are on with a few others as well. “We have been discussing the format with the tournament committee and tomorrow we will present the final blueprint,” the official said.
As revealed by Gulf News on Wednesday, some of the world’s top footballers, David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Michael Owen and Raul Gonzalez, could be seen in action during the tournament.
Each of the eight teams in the new league is expected to have a squad of 25 players, including half-a-dozen foreign recruits. The teams will be up for grabs through a bidding process in August.
The tournament is expected to glamourise the sport in the country, like what the Indian Premier League (IPL) did to cricket.
Four of the top Kolkata clubs — Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Mohammedan Sporting and Sporting United — are still in two minds over “releasing” their star players for the new league, but the AIFF finds such apprehension unfounded.
“The I-League is a time-tested product like a Test match in cricket, while the packaging will be completely different in the new league. The club loyalties will be replaced by city-based loyalties here where a top player from any Kolkata club can turn out for, let’s say, a Mumbai or Goa outfit. There is, hence, no question, of any brand dilution in the club’s following,” Subrata Dutta, senior vice-president, AIFF, said.
What the AIFF official left unsaid, though, was that the federation was left with no choice but to join forces with the IMG-R on the project, with the I-League failing to be a commercially viable product even after so many years.
IMG-R, the Indian arm of the sports management conglomerate, has pledged a guaranteed $117 million (Dh429.64 million) to the federation over a period of 15 years and will be understandably keen to make enough returns on the sum through a marketing blitz and TV revenue.