Now Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani tries to muscle in on global football market

Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani, owner of Reliance Industries and said to be India’s richest man, has signed a 15-year deal to run the All India Football Federation along with sports company IMG.

Ambani’s ambition, according to the Financial Times, is ultimately to create the football equivalent of the Indian Premier League, the 20/20 cricket tournament that attracts the world’s top players and oodles of advertiser and sponsor money.

This will alarm the old football establishment, centred in Europe, that has already seen the next three World Cups go to ’emerging’ Brazil, Russia and Qatar.

The IPL causes big problems for test match-playing countries who lose their best players for big chunks of the season. If the world’s top footballers were tempted to go and play in India that would severely disrupt both clubs and national teams in the established football world.

With a population of more than one billion sports-mad India is clearly fertile ground for football which is already the most popular spectator sport after cricket.

It will take a few years at least for India to produce a competitive national game and team. But the Ambani dollars could be set to work immediately to lure Europe and South America’s finest to India as the IPL has done.

And it won’t have escaped the established clubs’ notice that many top cricketers are freelances these days. they earn so much from the IPL that they can rent themselves out to others, including their national sides, as they wish. They don’t need clubs or, in the UK, counties any more.

An attractive prospect for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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