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Why Indian Super League got the Tata Group to review its football investment

Role of the Tata Football Aacademy will change to that of a provider for new Indian Super League club Jamshedpur FC, while an European tie-up is on the anvil

football Updated: Nov 13, 2017 22:33 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Indian Super League,Indian football,Jamshedpur FC
The Tata Football Academy (TFA) will serve as a provider to Indian Super League club Jamshedpur FC.(Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

A new football league has made the Tata Group change its policy of staying away from the commercial aspect of sport to doing the opposite. And up investment in football from around Rs. 1.7 crore annually on the Tata Football Academy (TFA) to nearly Rs. 50 crore this year.

“The ISL (Indian Super League) provides the kind of platform that was not there. And it has got better over three years. So, what we did not do earlier seems right now,” Sunil Bhaskaran, vice-president corporate services, told Hindustan Times in Jamshedpur recently.

So, nearly three decades after the football team of the Tata Sports Club was disbanded ---- one which was runners-up in the Rovers Cup thrice and had Olympian SS Narayanan, former India captain Shabbir Ali and Pradip Choudhury among others on its roster --- in Bombay, Jamshedpur FC (JFC) will debut in the Indian Super League (ISL) from a city where the group’s presence can’t be missed.

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In that time, the Tatas created a residential football academy, one that in 30 years has given India teams 137 players. But even after winning the second division of the National Football League in 2005-06, the Tata Football Academy (TFA) opted out of the top tier the next season. That is because club football was not their thing, grooming players was.

The Tata Football Academy (TFA) has produced some of India’s best footballers over the years. (Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

‘Win-win for both’

Through JFC they will be doing a lot more. The ISL, said Mukul Choudhari, the Tatas’ chief of sports excellence centres, came at a time when football in India was losing audience.

“It (the ISL) changed the way football was presented. Now that it is a little more professional, little more organised and there is a little more promise in development of football in a commercial manner, we stepped in,” said Choudhari at his office in TFA.

“I think it is a win-win for both. The league got a credible corporate who has been in sports for long. (There are 40 Dronacharyas and 12 Padma Shri winners from sports with the group). And we realised the need to invest, participate and help football grow,” said Choudhari.

The investment would be around Rs. 30 crore annually, said Choudhari. Bhaskaran said JFC hired international advisory firm Deloitte for advice.

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TFA’s role to change

Birthing JFC also means that the role of the TFA, now with 40 cadets below 18, would change. Bhaskaran spoke of a five-year plan that would include playing in the I-League 2nd division and creating a system that spots children in Jamshedpur and adjoining areas from when they are eight and groom them for JFC with the TFA being part of the chain. “So far, it was somewhat half-baked,” he said.

It will also mean a TFA tie-up with a European club and without sharing names, Bhaskaran said the response has been positive from those he visited so far. He said it would make sense for a partnership in a country where the group has a presence.

“All that would be part of the Tatas’ bid to create a successful, world class football team out of Jamshedpur,” said Bhaskaran. One that would encompass digital experience created by Tata Consultancy Services with tribal drum rolls at home games at JFC’s own stadium.

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JAMSHEDPUR FC - FACTS AND FIGURES

Team budget: Rs 30 crore.

Franchise fees: Rs 15 crore. (Barring Delhi Dynamos, who pay Rs 18 crore annually, and Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United FC, who pay Rs 12 crore each, the other franchises pay a fee of Rs 15 crore each annually)

Indian players: Rs 4.73 crore (approximately). Top two spends: Rs 1.10 crore on defender Anas Edathodika and Rs 87 lakh on goalkeeper Subrata Paul.

Foreign players: Rs 8.1 crore.

Spend on stadium and other infrastructure: Rs 20 crore.

This includes expenses on drainage, installing bucket seats, relaying the pitch, installing floodlight towers, refurbishing dressing rooms and creating hospitality areas.

“Even as we speak, there are hundreds of people working to get the stadium ready,” said Jamshedpur FC coach Steve Coppell in Kolkata on Sunday.

Some 30 apartments are being readied for players and the coaching staff to move in after the first two games in ISL4. The team is now staying in a hotel.

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TATAS AND FOOTBALL

Tata Football Academy: Set up in 1987, it is India’s most successful academy with 130 of its cadets having represented India. Cadets in their final year are sent on an exposure trip abroad. The last three batches went to Sheffield United. In the past, they have gone to Germany and Brazil. TFA now has 40 under-18 cadets.

Cost of running Tata Football Academy that was set up in 1987: Rs 1.7 crore (approximately).

Super Soccer series: In the time before 24x7 cable television brought world football to Indian homes, it was the Tatas who regularly provided a glimpse of the best through the Super Soccer series. The brainchild of the late Russy Mody, who was chairman and managing director Tata Steel, they got Sao Paulo FC juniors in 1984 and 1989, PSV Eindhoven in 1991 and SKF Lyn of Norway in 1994.

Football club: The Tata Sports Club operated out of Mumbai and were runners-up thrice in the Rovers Cup, which along with the IFA Shield and the Durand Cup were India’s most prestigious tournaments, in the 1970s.

(Figures are approximations sourced from the Indian Super League and JFC)

First Published: Nov 13, 2017 20:32 IST