Mumbai, April 13: Indian football entered the glamour world as some of the country’s top celebrities — from cricketers to Bollywood actors and businessmen — Sunday bought the franchise rights for the eight-team inaugural Indian Super League (ISL) that will be held during September-November.
Former India cricket captains Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly bagged Kochi and Kolkata, respectively, while Bollywood stars Ranbir Kapoor, Salman Khan and John Abraham bought Mumbai, Pune and Guwahati, respectively.
The promoters of ISL, IMG-Reliance, while announcing the names of owners of the eight city franchises, said the Indian Premier League (IPL)-style tournament has taken its first major leap in its bid to revolutionise Indian football.
The two-month tournament that will see some yesteryear international stars playing with Indian footballers will be held during September-November later this year.
The remaining three cities to make the cut are Delhi, Bangalore and Goa. While Delhi will be solely owned by Sameer Manchanda-headed DEN Cable Network, Bangalore was bagged by Sun Group, which also owns IPL team Sunrisers Hyderabad. The winning bidders paid a franchise fee reportedly ranging between Rs.12 crore and Rs.15 crore annually for 10 years.
Videocon chief Venugopal Dhoot has formed a consortium with businessman Dattaraj Salgaocar and Dempo owner Shrinivas Dempo to bag the rights for Goa.
Dempo is the most successful I-League team while Dattaraj is the brother of Shivanand Salgaocar, who owns former I-League champions Salgaocar. Dattaraj is also the brother-in-law of Reliance boss Mukesh Ambani.
Ganguly too has formed a consortium with West Bengal’s leading industrialists Harsh Neotia of Ambuja Neotia Group, Sanjeev Goenka of RP-SG Group, stock broker Utsav Parekh and top Spanish club Atletico Madrid to clinch the franchise rights for Kolkata.
Miguel Angel Gil Marin, owner of Atletico Madrid, said he was excited to be the first international team associated with the ISL.
“I am very excited to have won the Kolkata Franchise of the ISL and, being the first international team to be directly owning a club in India, we, along with our Indian Partners and IMG-Reliance, aim to revolutionise football in the country,” he said.
Tendulkar and PVP Ventures, which owns Indian Badminton League (IBL) inaugural champions Hyderabad Hotshots, have together clinched Kochi while actor-producer John Abraham has tied up with I-League outfit Shillong Lajong for Guwahati.
Tendulkar said the ISL will provide a great opportunity to the youngsters.
“The Indian Super League presents a great opportunity to develop a platform for the youngsters to learn and enhance their talent to develop into outstanding players,” he said.
Ranbir and Mumbai’s leading investment banker Bimal Parekh, who manages celebrities like Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif, have got the Mumbai franchise while Salman Khan bagged Pune along with Kapil and Dheeraj Wadhawan of the Wadhawan Group.
“It is a moment of great pride for me to be a part of the Indian Super League and to represent the vibrant city of Mumbai,” said Ranbir.
Michael Dolan, chairman and chief executive of IMG and chairman of IMG-R, said the announcement is the culmination of several years of hard work and strategic planning.
“We are enormously pleased at the level of interest the creation of the ISL has generated. We believe the league signals the beginning of a new era in the development of football in India and, in the future, will be the source of great pride for the people of India,” he said.
AIFF president Patel termed the ISL as an exciting period in Indian football.
“No period in India’s long and proud history in football is more exciting than today. This day will go down in memory as a special day for Indian football as eight high profile celebrities and corporates are being introduced into the sport through Indian Super League. I hope the grassroots obligations of the franchises gives a huge push to the development of the game in the country,” he said.