Friday, March 3, 2017

Inject some quality in Indian football: EPL managing director Richard Masters

India captain Sunil Chhetri (right) has been plying his trade in both the Indian Super League as well as the I-League. Pics/Suresh Karkera
India captain Sunil Chhetri (right) has been plying his trade in both the Indian Super League as well as the I-League. Pics/Suresh Karkera

Indian football is at the crossroads of uncertainty where two leagues – the I-League and the glamorous Indian Super League (ISL) are causing major concerns within the football fraternity. The merger of the two has been much talked about, but no daylight can be seen till date.

The Premier League has been associated and invested heavily with Indian football ever since the inception of the ISL in 2014. Richard Masters, Managing Director of one of the most successful leagues in the world, strongly emphasised that the Indian authorities need to adopt one league on a promotion-relegation system. Masters, who was present during ‘The Football Movement’, a conference organised by the UK Department of International Trade, India on Track, Premier League and Star Sports yesterday, cited how the Premier League has benefited by adopting the pyramid system.

EPL MD Richard Masters
EPL MD Richard Masters

Protection of investments
“People have put money in a set up like the ISL and to protect those investments that decision (league merger) is not just round the corner. It has to be made at the right time,” Masters told mid-day on the sidelines of the event. “However, the ultimate end should be a pyramid system where teams can rise on their own merit. That is what has worked in European football. We have a top division that is vibrant at both ends. In the Premier League, you fight for the championship, the European places and then you have the dog fight to avoid relegation. That is what drives the league and the January transfer window, which is why coaches move on and make changes to their teams. It’s not all about branding. It’s the essence of the competition,” Masters said.

Benefits for both sides
Masters also elaborated how it would be a win-win situation for both – EPL and Indian football – if the sub-continent has one league. “We can build a strong football fan base in India if this country has a strong domestic league. The two go hand-in -hand. If there is strong support for Indian football, then it will be interesting for the Premier League as well,” he added.

The benefits of investing in Indian football can never be immediate with cricket being the primary sport in India. The Premier League, Masters said, is willing to wait for their rewards. “Cricket is pretty big in the UK as well. I think there is a younger age group now who are growing up with broader tastes, different interests and horizons. Football will play a bigger part in their lives going forward. It’s a long term thing,” he explained.

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