Mumbai: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC)-FIFA roadmap that will see the emergence of a single league that unifies the best elements of the I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL) will propel Indian football forward and lead to the development of a vibrant football ecosystem in the county.
This was the key message that emerged from prominent stakeholders in the football business, both within the country and global leagues, who deliberated on the topic "Future of Indian Football Takes Shape", during the 8th edition of the India Football Forum (IFF).
I-League CEO Sunando Dhar said during a panel discussion on 'The Road Ahead for Indian Club Football", that "given the size of the country, a 20-team league is not impossible in the next 10 years."
Elaborating on the achievements of the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) Youth League System, Dhar pointed out that the team which represented India in the FIFA U-17 World Cup was exclusively chosen from the Youth Leagues. Moreover, India reached the quarter-finals of AFC U-16 Championship in 2018, and currently India is the champion of all the age-group tournaments in the South Asian Region.
In his special address, Kevin Sim, Head-APAC Bundesliga International GmbH, gave an insight into the demands of the digital age vis-a-vis digital enrichment of the in-stadium experience in the 5G era.
He said a combination of physical and digital experiences will be the demand of the day, pointing out that the Bundesliga is one of the most innovative sports leagues in the world.
Sim said all innovations are customer focused (B2B & B2C), and the key success factors include systematic innovation management, agility, courage, and networking with the world of sport and technology.
Jose Antonio Cachaza, Managing Director, LaLiga India talked about the popular Spanish league's GloCal Strategy, which focuses on keeping a common and easily recognizable message anywhere in the world, and communicating to the audience in their language by offering relevant content.
Mumbai City CEO, Indranil Das Blah, said that the ISL franchises were enthusiastic about a new, bigger ISL with promotion-relegation.
"Contrary to popular belief, all ISL franchises are in favour of promotion-relegation because that's where the drama is. Anyone who invested thinking they'd be profitable or break even in three to five years were badly advised. All our officials were thoroughly briefed on what this is... this is a long term investment project and there will be gains in the future; we are committed to that vision."
In what is a major boost to the Indian Super League (ISL), the City Football Group (CFG), owners of Manchester City club, recently acquired a 65% stake in Mumbai City FC, the franchise co-owned by Bollywood star Ranbir Kapoor and Bimal Parekh.
Other key speakers and panelists included Henry Menezes, CEO, Western India Football Association (WIFA); Jitendra Joshi, Co-Founder Director, Sportz Village Xp; Arunava Chaudhuri, Football Strategist & Media Professional; Arun Raghu, Co-Founder, Fans on Stands Sports; Supratik Sen, CEO and Co-Founder, U Sports; Neel Shah, Head of Sports Education & New Business, India On Track; Subhamoy Das, Sr. Business Director, ESP Properties; and Chiraag Paul, Founder & CEO, Proem Sports Analytics. The Conference Emcee was Jonathan Rego, Founder & Executive Editor, Nation of Sport.
The India Football Forum 2019 was powered by HERO MotoCorp, while the Knowledge Session Partners were Star Sports and Sony Pictures Networks India. Associate Partners for this edition were Sportz Village, Mumbai City FC, IISM, One Native, The Fan Garage, and Mumbai Live.