Corporate houses, Spanish football club Atletico Madrid & Sachin Tendulkar among club owners of Indian Super League

Corporate activity in sports as a business is on the rise with soccer all set to join the likes of cricket, hockey and badminton to have its own domestic circuit backed by funding from both top companies as well as sports and Bollywood celebrities.

Promoted by IMG-Reliance in association with Newscorp’s Star India, the Indian Super League will see eight clubs clashing against each other in a soccer tournament scheduled to be held between September and November this year.

Although football already has an existing domestic circuit and some clubs have had corporate sponsors for decades, the new league offers to bring more colour with international stars in each team, money to boost marketing and slicker production to bring in the audiences.

The league has already attracted some marquee names, including investment from Atletico Madrid, one of the top clubs of Spain and currently leading La Liga, one of the world’s most followed soccer tournament. Others include various corporate houses and celebrities.

For instance, cable operator DEN Networks is the owner of Delhi team while Sun Group (which is behind Sun TV and SpiceJet) own Bangalore franchise. RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group joined hands with Atletico Madrid, Ambuja-Neotia family and former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly to bag Kolkata team; Videocon, Dempo and Salgaocar are together behind Goan team; Sachin Tendulkar has joined hands with Prasad Potluri-led PVP Ventures to pick Kochi franchise.

At the same time, three Bollywood actors are also among the owners of the soccer clubs. Salman Khan won the Pune franchise by teaming up with Kapil Wadhawan and Dheeraj Wadhawan of the Wadhawan Group; Ranbir Kapoor partnered chartered accountant Bimal Parekh to secure Mumbai franchise and John Abraham joined hands with Shillong Lajong, to bag the Guwahati franchise.

International advisory firm Ernst & Young had the mandate of drawing up and validating the process for the bids, which were evaluated by the jury panel.

Just like the new domestic sporting circuits of cricket (Indian Premier League) and hockey (Indian Hockey League), Indian Super League is also tipped to see international stars such as former French international Robert Pires and ex-Sweden and Arsenal player Fredrik Ljungberg, among others.

Meanwhile, media reports suggest Tendulkar, along with PVP Ventures, is also likely to pick a stake in the Indian team of former tennis player Mahesh Bhupati’s proposed International Premier Tennis League. PVP Ventures, which has interests in real estate, media and also finances film projects, has been an active investor in the sports field. It also owns a team in the Indian Badminton League and was one of the bidders for Hyderabad team of IPL in 2012.

While much of the sports investment in the past has been through corporate houses or industrialists directly, some private equity firms have been eyeing the space. FidelisWorld, a sports investment fund focused on Asian markets, promoted by former JP Morgan executive Anand Krishnan, is one such firm.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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