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,
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.