American football enters India via EFLI
MUMBAI: There is a rush among sporting bodies to follow the Indian Premier League (IPL) way to build their sport. The latest to follow this route is American football even as broadcaster Ten Sports has signed up a multi-year deal for telecast coverage so that the sport makes a mark in India.
The Elite Football League of India (EFLI) is making an entry with its first edition ready to kick off in November 2012 in Pune.
The franchise-based league will initially have eight teams - Mumbai Gladiators, Hyderabad Skykings, Goa Swarm, Pune Blacktigers, Kolkata Vipers, Delhi Defenders, Punjab Warriors and Bhubaneswar Warhawks.
The EFLI is working with the government so that a governing body for the game can be instituted along the shape of India‘s cricket board, the BCCI.
EFLI founder Sunday Zeller said, "The launch of EFLI in India is a momentous occasion for us and indeed for the game. American Football is an inherent part of the American way of life. With a history of over 100 years, the game has acquired cult status in US, which can be mapped alongside its history. India is known to assimilate cultures and that, coupled with the immense pool of talent it has, makes it an ideal choice for a concept like EFLI. We are certain that these factors will combine to make India a force to reckon with in this great game of American Football, apart from creating the most lucrative sports league in the country."
Teams will be sold through the auction route like the IPL. There will be 59 games including two play-off games to decide the top teams.
EFLI CEO Richard Whelan said, "India is beyond doubt a great market for the sports and entertainment sectors.
A concept like EFLI presents a huge opportunity and the perfect platform for brands to get visibility and reach out to their potential customers. We felt that India didn‘t have enough games or sport to watch on television and, thus, see a huge potential here. We are training coaches from athletics, volleyball and wrestling and hope to be ready for the first season in time."
The league plans to add eight more teams during the second year and four in each subsequent season until 2022. By then, the league would have 52 teams representing all Indian cities with a population in excess of 1 million. ELFI will share 15 per cent of its revenue with the Sports Authority of India.
The EFLI will invite 600 companies to attend an orientation program to discuss strategy for long-term business affiliation. The league hopes to attract not just corporate backing but also support from the army, city municipalities and political parties. The Super Bowl is the most watched sport on American television.