India’s premier football tournament I-League suffered a major blow as its official broadcaster Star Sports informed All India Football Federation (AIFF) that it will cover only 30 matches for the rest of the season, bringing the total number of matches broadcasted to 80 out of 110.
AIFF released a list of matches that Star Sports will broadcast for the remaining season, with defending champions Minerva Punjab FC having only one game featured in that list. Minverva owner Ranjit Bajaj lashed out at Football Sports Development Ltd (FSDL), marketing partners of the AIFF, for the ill-treatment of the I-League.
Ranjit Bajaj tweeted, “Well done star sports India and obviously the main villain for destroying I-League. FSDL-only one more match of Minerva Punjab to be telecast after the Neroca fc match tomorrow-also 30 matches not be shown as FSDL thinks it’s not as important as ISL. Today I am feeling so helpless and sad that the top football league of the country has just been killed off by the rich guys (FSDL) and Star Sports.”
According to a report on Scroll.in, I-League CEO Sunando Dhar however, said no number had been specified in Star Sports’ contract as to how many matches would be broadcasted. Dhar also said, “Broadcasting deals don’t fall under the AIFF’s purview. It is our commercial and marketing partner’s responsibility to negotiate the deal.” A Star Sports source said, “We negotiate the broadcast deals with Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL). We held all our discussions with all stakeholders and it was amicably agreed upon.”
FSDL is an Indian company which operates the Indian Super League (ISL) and it is a subsidiary of IMG-Reliance.
Since, the inception of ISL, a number of great players came in the tournament but failed to pull out the crowds. Despite the huge investment and heavy advertisement, ISL teams have not been able to develop fan base like other I-League clubs and the presence of FSDL at both places raise some serious question of conflict of interest. One cannot forget that ISL is the dream project of FSDL and in a country like India where football is not as popular as cricket; it is hard to run two leagues simultaneously with the same success rate.
Gokulam Kerala president VC Praveen has also shown his discontent with the AIFF. Goal.com quoted Praveen as saying, “Earlier, before the league started, it (number of televised matches to be cut down) was expected. Though we did speak to AIFF about it but they said ‘No, all the matches will be telecasted.’ So this has come as a shock for all of us mainly because we have told our sponsors about the viewership. When I-League is not been telecast, Clearly, Star Sports is trying to show that ISL is bigger than I-League, which is not. AIFF is almost accepting the fact and are just keeping quiet. I don’t know what the problem is. ”