Zee embraces soccer in cricket?s absence

NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: Having been felled by a bouncer from the Indian cricket board, Zee Telefilms is now dribbling to score goals with domestic football.

NOT INTERESTED IN CRICKET? After announcing a deal with the Indian football federation for telecast rights in Delhi today, Zee Telefilms CMD Subhash Chandra told journalists on the sidelines that the company is not interested in cricket anymore.

?We are not interested in cricket anymore as the value of the game has come down considerably,? he said to a question posed by on cricket rights, adding jocularly, ?I hope we don?t emerge as the highest bidder.?

Pointing out that the court has been moved to ensure Zee is not kept out of the bidding process, Chandra said that the drama being enacted within the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for power has resulted in the cricket team?s indifferent performance in recent times.

Extolling the virtues of football, which has been popular in India even before cricket became a big game, Chandra, sharing the dais with Indian football boss Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, said, ?India is a cricketing nation, not a sporting nation. It?s time the country embraces other games, like football, in a big way.?

His comments came after the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the apex body of football in India, and Zee Sports announced the signing of a 10-year exclusive telecast deal for domestic football for an undisclosed amount.

Under the terms of contract Zee Sports will not only broadcast the matches, but will also market all the domestic tournaments of AIFF, including Federation Cup, Santosh Trophy, National Football League and Super Cup.

Though details of the contract was not disclosed at a media briefing in Delhi, learns from broadcast industry sources the deal is for five years, which is extendable by another five years. The sources hinted that the price is approximately Rs 1 billion for the initial five-year period with a 25 per cent minimum guarantee from Zee on an annual basis.

According to Chandra, Zee will take up the cause of football in India as ?challenge? and his various media properties, including DNA (a newspaper in association with the Bhaskar group), will be used to popularize and market the game.

AIFF president Priyaranjan Dasmunshi termed this the ?biggest deal? for the football organization and said, ?We have failed (to make a mark globally in football) because of lack of marketing support and professionalism. Now it would be our joint endeavour to take football to every home in India.?

The Zee Sports-AIFF deal also includes some international matches played by the Indian team in the country.

In the first year, Zee Sports will telecast approximately 100 matches live from all the major domestic football tournaments with a minimum guarantee of 70 matches. Any other domestic football tournament, which AIFF starts in this period, will also fall under the purview of this contract.

Zee Sports will create a distinctive identity for every domestic tournament to drive fan support across the country, apart from creating unique logos for every tournament, thematic ad campaigns and merchandise like T-shirts.

Football stars? profiles will precede every major tournament to create consumer interest and popularity among the masses. Plans are also being worked out to do special football clinics for youngsters across the country with leading players to create excitement around the various football tournaments.

Points out Zee Sports COO Gary Lovejoy, ?This is indeed a big property. What?s also good is that, unlike hockey, stadia with adequate facility can be found all over the country.?

To promote the tournaments a special section on Indian football will be created on Zee Sports website This will provide soccer fans with the latest team news, match scores, statistics and player profiles, as well as exclusive player interviews and photo galleries.

There will be interactive sections, which will include chat rooms, video clips of matches, online games, wallpapers and ring tones.

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