Sep 25, 2008

Sport - Football;India - I League

Sumantha Rathore

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Zee Sports have announced that ONGC will sponsor the second season of I League as well. The event, which starts on September 26, will be called the ONGC I League. This season will be played in Kolkata, Goa, Mumbai and Ludhiana. Zee Sports has bagged the exclusive rights for the live telecast of the matches. The inaugural match of the second season is slated to be played between Kingfisher East Bengal Club and Chirag United on September 26 in Kolkata. Talking to afaqs!, Priyaranjan Dasmunsi, Union minister for information and broadcasting and AIFF president, says, “We are planning a very aggressive marketing strategy this time. With the kind of planning we have done, no football lover will miss any of the matches.”Dasmunsi says though most of the clubs met the selection criteria this time, a lot still has to be done to make football more popular among the masses. “We still have many shortcomings, which can be rectified only with better infrastructure and more corporate backing,” he explains. Explaining the marketing strategies for the league, Dipender Shejpal, senior vice-president, marketing, Zee Sports, tells afaqs!, “A 360 degree campaign, involving television, multimedia, merchandise, mailers and on-ground activities, is being planned. The Zee Network will carry promos of I League throughout the event. There will be TV commercials, news coverage on regional and national channels, and a host of other activities.” Island ads will be booked in print, which will be seen during the matches and work as tune-in alerts for the audience. Many local level activities are also being planned at the venues. There is a content and advertisement tieup with All Sports magazine for extensive promotion of the event. Tieups with several sports bars across the country will enable live telecast of the matches. Cable operators will also be encouraged to increase viewing with merchandise and details regarding match timings. At the regional level, Zee plans to share content with its local channels and Zee Bangla will telecast the matches being played in West Bengal. The minister stresses that this is just the beginning of a new journey to recapture the lost glory of football in India. “We are thankful to the ONGC for its continued support to Indian football. With a strong and ambitious lineup, the respective clubs and the various incentives provided to the clubs for participating in the event, we expect the second edition of I League to be a huge crowd puller and a dazzling and entertaining display of football,” he says. Other I League sponsors are J&K Bank, J&K Tourism and Metlife Insurance. Nike, the official kit provider for the Indian team, will also be a partner in the event. Indian Oil, which was a part of the earlier I League, is also in talks with the organisers regarding participation in the current season. In an official communiqué, ONGC chairperson RS Sharma says, “The success story of the Indian team in the ONGC Nehru Cup and the AFC Challenge has given a boost to football in India. ONGC has been associated with the AIFF in its efforts to improve and promote the game. We have renewed the sponsorship to continue supporting Indian football in achieving new milestones and glory.” Commenting on the launch of the second season, Himanshu Modi, business head, Zee Sports, says in an official statement, “It is heartening to see that the detailing and hard work put in over the past few years is finally taking shape in terms of professional football. From this year onwards, football fans will enjoy an exciting league brought to them at viewer friendly times with indepth analysis and world class graphics.” Modi says, “To make the tournament more viewer friendly, the matches will be played at primetime during weekends. Traditionally, football is played during the day – during office hours. We at Zee are trying to change this trend and, since 2005, we have made a constant endeavour to make sure that all the matches telecast on our channel are played in floodlights, in primetime, to garner more viewership.” In the first season, 10 teams participated in the I League. This time, 12 teams will participate and a total of 130 matches will be played. In order to add a touch of glamour, a cheerleading team has been introduced. The participants of last year’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa – a musical talent hunt show on Zee TV – will perform in Kolkata during the matches. The second season of I League will offer a total prize of Rs 1.25 crore. The winner of the tournament will take home Rs 50 lakh, the first runner up will get Rs 28 lakh, the second runner up, Rs 20 lakh, and the third runner up, Rs 10 lakh. There will also be cash rewards for the best player, goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward, the highest goal scorer and the best coach.

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