AIFF Dubai meeting with overseas investors off

New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) There is speculation over the reasons for the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to postpone a meeting with overseas investors, scheduled for March 31 in Dubai, by week.

AIFF insists that it was postponed because its president Praful Patel was preoccupied while cynical view is that it had been done owing to a lack of response.

AIFF’s senior vice-president Subrata Dutta told IANS that the meeting has been put off by a week as they want to meet their marketing arm IMG-Reliance before the Dubai conclave.

The meeting is now likely to be held April 6.

“The meeting was scheduled for March 31 but now most likely it will be held on April 6. We had to postpone it as we want to meet our commercial partner IMG-Reliance before going to Dubai,” Dutta said.

The AIFF had decided to have at least two corporate clubs in the I-League next year. The precondition for getting the corporate in is to get them to create a infrastructure for the game.

The AIFF is believed to have invited top European clubs Manchester United and Bayern Munich for the meeting in Dubai to provide technical expertise to the corporate clubs joining the I-League.

Another source in the AIFF told IANS that overseas investors would only show interest if they can get value for their investments.

“I doubt how many foreign investors would turn up in Dubai. The AIFF wants corporates to invest Rs.100 crores over five years, but that can happen only if they are guaranteed good returns on their investment.”
“I very much doubt if any foreigner would invest in Indian football without adequate safeguards, but Indian corporate can easily grab the opportunity,” the official told IANS without wanting to be named.

I-League chief executive Sunando Dhar, however, told IANS that the meeting had to be postponed because AIFF president Praful Patel, the union minister for heavy industries, had prior engagements.

To pooh-pooh speculation over the lack of response, the AIFF official said already 30 corporate houses have shown interest in bidding for two new teams during an open house held earlier this month.

Prominent groups like Sahara, GMR, Venky’s, Piramal, Dodsal Group, IL&FS, JSW, and DSK have attended the session. Both Sahara and GMR own Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises in Pune and Delhi, respectively.

The two key riders for the corporates to bid for the franchises is to invest in infrastructure for the next five years and that they could bid for any city except Bengal and Goa.

The AIFF is also willing to protect the two new teams from relegation for the next two years.

The process of registering new teams is likely to be completed by the end of April. It will help the two new teams to recruit footballers when the transfer window opens June 9.

Two teams – ONGC and Air India – are likely to be dropped from the I-League after they failed to fulfil the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) club licensing criteria despite repeated reminders.