Sheffield United Football Club (SUFC) joined English clubs seeking a foothold in India by signing a three-year agreement with the Tata Football Academy (TFA) here on Tuesday.
Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers have already walked that route, with the Indian Football Association (IFA) and JCT respectively in 2008. Feelers have been sent by Chelsea and Manchester United over the past two years and from 2009, Liverpool started courses for coaches and referees in Pune.
Arsenal run a talent hunt programme in India and Manchester United also conduct an age-group tournament for boys, the final rounds of which are held in Manchester.
Following this arrangement, TFA coaches and cadets would receive inputs from Sheffield's training staff and travel to the club, which was one of the founder members of the English Premier League and now plays in The Championship (second division, below the Premier League). The club was established in 1889.
Sanjeev Paul, director on the TFA's board of management, said SUFC will frame a 12-month programme on coaching, fitness and professional development of coaches and cadets. "SUFC chief coach Dave McCarthy will be here in the first week of September to chalk out the details of TFA coaches' visit to SUFC. He would be camping at TFA for three weeks," said Paul.
"TFA coaches will visit SUFC academy to study the coaching pattern, strength and conditioning methods, possibly in November. Ideally, we would like 70-80 days of coaches exchange programme in a calendar year. TFA cadets would be going to SUFC in 2012," said Satish Pillai, a member of the board of management of TFA. Ian Cameron, Sheffield United's vice-president, who signed the deal with Paul, didn't want to comment on the commercial gains of the tie-up. Christine Badger, chairman of Goldmere, the agency which liaised between the two, was more forthcoming.
"SUFC would have its brand presence in a big way in the soccer-crazy Indian sub-continent. It took me two years to convince SUFC and TFA authorities about the gains of the deal. SUFC is already reaping benefits from its overseas operations at China, Hungary, Australia and Belgium and they hope to derive the same in India by promoting soccer of an academy whose ex-cadets comprise more than 70 per cent of the Indian football team," Badger said.
Cameron said SUFC have stakes in Chinese club Chengdu Blades --- coincidentally, the club is nicknamed The Blades because of Sheffield's history of steel manufacturing --- and both clubs have benefited from sale of merchandise.
"A similar agreement is in place for Budapest based Ferencvaros, Central Coast Mariners (Australia) and White Star Woluwe (Belgium). We also help talented players from China, Australia and Hungary to play in our side in English leagues. In future, we may look at providing similar platforms for talented players from TFA too," said Cameron.