New professional league
One of the AIFF’s main objectives is to professsionalise the national league, and the association is currently working with specialists from FIFA’s development division to achieve that very target. Nevertheless, various sets of contrasting interests will need to be taken into account. It is fair to say that not all local leagues are enamoured with the idea, as they fear that a professional league at national level could leave all other competitions in its wake. In the other hand, what cannot be denied is the fact that Indian football is in urgent need of heroes of its own, players who can help to market the Indian game. Clubs such as those in Kolkata want a professional league to act as a catalyst for change.
The President and the General Secretary of the AIFF, Priya Tanjan Dasmunsi and Alberto Colaco, have studied various aspects of the new league with FIFA’s experts. How many teams should play in the new professional league? Should the club’s finances be taken into account? Should the league make sure that the clubs are spread out across the whole country? Does it really make sense to reduce squads from 35 to 25 players? What kind of infrastructure and personal conditions should be imposed on clubs interested in taking part? How would a licensing procedure work? A second division is also in the pipeline to provide solid foundations for the entire league.
The new league is set to kick off in October, as soon as all of the local league championships are over. The clubs have been chosen on the basis of sporting criteria, although they did have to prove that they were in good shape financially as well.
The partnership between the AIFF and Zee Sports will be crucial because the TV channel will be playing million of US dollars each year for the rights to the top two leagues as well as to the Indian cup. A ten-year contract is already in place, with Zee Sports paying more from each year to the next. “Our goal is to provide broadcasts of the quality that people have come to expect from the top leagues in the world,” says Englishman Gary Lovejoy, the CEO of Zee Sports. Lovejoy and his team will certainly have a challenge on their hands if they are to place their cameras in the correct positions. The work will hopefully be worth in the end. “We are looking on it as an investment that will pay off in the next few years,” says Lovejoy. The planning and the quality of Zee Sports’ broadcasts are already evident in the channel’s reports.