It's billed as the most prestigious international football tournament in the country. However, as the 15th Nehru Cup gets underway, it will do so without a single sponsor on-board the All India Football Federation event. All this when the federation is gearing up to celebrate its 75-year anniversary.
ONGC, who played a key role in reviving the Nehru Cup in 2007 after a 10-year hiatus and had sponsored the last two editions (spending an estimated Rs. 3 crore per event), were obvious candidates. But their relationship with the AIFF has hit rough waters over the past two years, after the AIFF cancelled their contract over non-payment of dues. The subsequent multi-year deal with IMG-Reliance hasn’t helped matters. According to sources, the tournament bill is being footed by IMG-Reliance, and AIFF has been forced to make do with a limited budget, which has seen them cut down on a few luxuries.
Help for Durand
Even as the Nehru Cup grapples with the lack of sponsor interest, there was some good news in store for the oldest football tournament in the country, the Durand Cup, as an NRI-owned London-based multi-national corporation, Anglian Holdings, has chipped in as sponsor after mobile phone giant, Micromax, pulled out of the event at the eleventh hour.
Anglian, owned by Indian entrepreneur Uday Narang, signed a Rs. 10 lakh contract with the Durand Society and will assist the Indian Army in staging the tournament. Micromax had earlier pledged Rs. 35 lakh, but pulled out citing overspending in the recent India-Sri Lanka ODI series. Anglian had earlier in the year bought a 26% stake in I-League club Shillong Lajong FC. They also have a stake in Danish club FC Vestsjælland (Vikings), and according to chairman Narang are keen to create a pipeline for Indian talent to find a footing in European clubs.