IMG Reliance in deal for Indian football rights

IMG Reliance in deal for Indian football rights

Kolkata: After basketball, tennis and golf, IMG Reliance Pvt. Ltd—a sports management firm that’s a joint venture between Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and US-based IMG Worldwide—is set to enter football in a big way.

Under a deal struck this week, IMG Reliance is to secure “all commercial rights" of football tournaments organized by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the apex football body, for 15 years.

AIFF, which organizes annual tournaments such as the I-League, the Durand Cup and the Federation Cup, expects to earn around 700 crore from the deal, its general secretary Kushal Das said. The amount is to be paid over 15 years as the fee payable to AIFF increases every year for the first five years and then gets fixed according to a formula.

AIFF is to sign the contract with IMG Reliance on Thursday, terminating a similar one with Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd signed five years ago. It will pay Zee a “termination fee" of 70 crore, according to another AIFF official, who did not want to be named. “We are going to pay Zee from the money we receive from IMG Reliance," he said, adding IMG Reliance would be paying AIFF at least 31 crore more immediately.

IMG Reliance refused to comment for this story. Zee didn’t reply to questions emailed to its spokesperson till the time of going to press.

Under the contract, IMG Reliance will be able to sell sponsorship and telecast rights of all AIFF-organized tournaments.

Already at least three Kolkata-based Bengali news channels have submitted bids for telecast rights of the ongoing I-League, which still doesn’t have a title sponsor after Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd pulled out.

“We have already submitted bids with the AIFF," said Kaustuv Ray, chairman of RP Infosystems Pvt. Ltd—the company behind the Kolkata TV news channel. “We will now have to negotiate with IMG Reliance."

While hailing the move, Shaji Prabhakaran, managing director and chief executive officer of Futfire Sports (India) Pvt. Ltd, a football-dedicated consulting firm, said the game had a much smaller audience than cricket.

RIL had joined forces with IMG Worldwide in March, to create and operate sports entertainment assets in India. It has since struck deals to promote basketball, tennis and golf in India.

Aveek Datta in Mumbai contributed to this story.