UB Group rethinking their investment in East Bengal and Mohun Bagan

New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) After Mahindra Group, a lot of corporates are having a re-think about their investment in Indian soccer clubs.

As Indian football saw the last of famed Mumbai outfit Mahindra United Thursday, another corporate United Breweries (UB), sponsors of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, indicated that they may also go the Mahindra way as they are not getting enough returns from their investment. Both the Kolkata clubs get around Rs.50-70 million anually from the UB Group.

Fraser Castellino, chief operating officer of sports marketing business of UB Group, made it clear that the All India football Federation (AIFF) has a lot of work to do in revamping the I-league if they don’t want corporates shutting down clubs in future.

‘It is unfortunate that Mahindra is closing down. But at the end of the day, AIFF should understand that we (corporates) are investing in Indian football, because we expect more in return,’ said Castellino Thursday on the sidelines of Indian Football Forum here organised by SportzPower.

‘We are not getting the kind of return that we expect. But we remain optimistic about that. A lot has to be done by the AIFF to ensure that corporates stay in Indian football. We hope that we would get it and we are giving it an year’s time to see how things shape up in the I-League,’ he added.

UB Group is not the only corporate to sound its concerns and recently Samir Thapar, managing director of JCT, which owns the JCT football club, also expressed his displeasure with the way the I-League is being run by the AIFF.

‘Mahindra’s decision to pull out is very sad. But why blame them. The I-League has no charm and value and is not being run in a professional way. I am not sure how long we would be able to sustain,’ Thapar had said.

AIFF officials admitted that there are problems with the I-League.

I-League’s chief executive officer Sunando Dhar said: ‘There is no doubt that Mahindra’s decision to disband the club is extremely unfortunate. And as AIFF president (Praful Patel) has also admitted that we need to revamp the I-League from the next session. We are working with sponsors and broadcasters to package and market the I-League in a better way.’

Club officials are also a worried lot.

A top official in East Bengal told IANS that it is an alarming situation and blamed the AIFF for the lacklustre I-League.

‘The I-League is the property of the AIFF, so who should be blamed for it. The AIFF is always passing the blame on to the clubs, but they have to accept that I-League’s marketing and broadcasting deals are in a complete mess,’ the official said.