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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

AIFF’s multi-million splurge on tri-nation football series defies logic

The All India Football Federation is set to spend close to Rs. 4 crore, more than its annual budget for the women’s national team, on a three-match tournament involving India, Mauritius and St. Kitts and Nevis

football Updated: Aug 13, 2017 09:41 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India will play Mauritius and St Kitts and Nevis in the upcoming tri-nation football series to be held in Mumbai.
India will play Mauritius and St Kitts and Nevis in the upcoming tri-nation football series to be held in Mumbai.(PTI)

Mauritius and St Kitts and Nevis will be the two teams up against India in the upcoming tri-nation invitational football tournament to be held in Mumbai from August 19-24.

Not quite the footballing royalty India wanted to host for the initially-planned Champions Cup, the two teams are placed 160 and 125 in the FIFA world rankings, respectively.

However, that hasn’t stopped the All India Football Federation (AIFF) from spending a good chunk of its annual budget on the upcoming tournament, an event whose matches won’t be counted as official friendlies by FIFA, and thereby, won’t offer any ranking points.

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Cost close to Rs 4 crore

As reported by Hindustan Times on Thursday, the AIFF had already suffered heavy losses due to a change in venue from Chennai to Mumbai. A well-placed source had estimated that the losses would be around Rs 65-70 lakh.

However, these figures are dwarfed by the projected total spending on the event, which is estimated at Rs4 crore.

“Rs 3 crore was the total budget (for the tournament), which has now exceeded by over Rs70 lakh,” a federation source told Hindustan Times.

These are extravagant figures for a tournament that involves three matches at one venue. The cost of organising the event includes travel and stay for the two visiting teams.

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The tri-nation series involving India, Mauritius and St Kitts and Nevis will have just three matches.
The tri-nation series involving India, Mauritius and St Kitts and Nevis will have just three matches. ( HT Photo )

IMG-R agreement

The AIFF source further revealed that the Master Rights Agreement (MRA) between AIFF and commercial partners IMG-Reliance requires the federation to host an international tournament every alternate year.

When contacted, officials of IMG-Reliance refused to answer Hindustan Times’s queries on the MRA as well as its involvement with the tournament. However, AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said the governing body has been working together with its commercial partners in the build-up to the event.

“Since IMG-R are our marketing partners, and because of the fact that Hero has come on board as a national team sponsor, we decided we should organise more matches for the national team in India,” Das said.

He confirmed that the cost of the tournament is being borne by the AIFF from its ‘competitions’ budget.

“It (the money) comes from the AIFF’s overall budget. This amount was not budgeted in the previous strategic plan. It will be budgeted from this year onwards,” Das said.

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Warm-up for Macau

“The two matches (of the three-nation series) would immensely benefit our quest to maintain an all-win record in the Asian Cup qualifiers,” an AIFF press release quoted India head coach Stephen Constantine as saying.

India will play 183-ranked Macau away on September 5, and at home on October 10, in their next two 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying games.

While the two games in the tri-nation series will undoubtedly serve as practice fixtures, one wonders if practice fixtures against St. Kitts and Nevis and Mauritius merit such heavy spending.

Given the fact that the dates for the event do not fall in the FIFA friendly calendar, the possibility of the more popular countries taking part in the event had already been negated.

“Invitations are sent to various countries, and whoever is available (is chosen),” Kushal Das said of the process of selecting the teams for the tournament.

In such a scenario, bringing in teams geographically closer to India, say two South Asian countries, who would have provided similar level of competition as the two teams in the event, would have cost a fraction of the amount.

First Published: Aug 13, 2017 09:39 IST

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