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I-League offers English sides ‘sister club’ franchises

AIFF secretary travelling to Manchester to sound out proposals

Gulf News

Dubai: Secretary of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Kushal Das will travel to Manchester, England this week to try and attract more bids for I-League franchises, after successful talks with investors in Dubai and Delhi.

Top of his list of targets are thought to be European clubs interested in co-branding opportunities, where in exchange for vast merchandising potential, clubs can offer their technical expertise to a ‘sister club’ in India’s top flight football league.

Representatives from English Premier League sides Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers and Venky’s Group, the owners of second tier side Blackburn Rovers, have already expressed an interest, according to Das.

Their affiliated clubs could theoretically replace ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) and Air India in next season’s I-league if they can outbid four or five other “seriously interested” parties with an investment expected to start at around $36.8 million (Dh135 million).

“We’ve had European clubs visit India to play and train on promotional tours before, but this is an entirely different opportunity for them, which has never been done before. It offers huge potential in return on their investment,” said Das in reference to India’s population of 1.2 billion people and their increasing shift in interest from cricket to football.

ONGC and Air India have been barred from competing in India’s top flight having failed to fulfil Asian Football Confederation (AFC) criteria on grounds of infrastructure and commercial viability.

Incoming investors would be guaranteed a five-year stay in the I-League provided they build a stadium and develop a youth academy.

Preliminary talks in Dubai and Delhi with representatives from over 75 companies have already been branded a success by Das. He now awaits proposals ahead of an auction to be carried out in the second week of May.