India is a growing market for football. Popularly termed the “sleeping giants” of football, European leagues and clubs have made massive inroads in India in the last few years. The aim is to popularise the sport in India further and tap into a resourceful market.
On Thursday, the La Liga officially launched the league in India. The Spanish league will be setting up its third office in Asia, in New Delhi. The focus will be to popularise the league in India.
La Liga president Javier Tebas said that there would be exhibition matches including a possible El Clasico in the effort to do the same. He also revealed that player visits would take place along with development efforts to work at the grassroots level.
“It’s a historic day for La Liga. We are excited to extend our presence in India, and this is the next step in our efforts to grow the sport and La Liga’s popularity throughout Asia,” said Tebas in New Delhi on Thursday. “We have come to realise that there is huge fan following of clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in India and by opening an office in the country, we want to be closer to the fans.
The Spanish league would be changing the time of the matches to favour its Indian audience. The English Premier League has a much favourable time slot. Competing with the highly popular PL, Tebas said that matches would kick off at 4:30 IST to favour the Indians.
Sony Pictures Network broadcasts the La Liga games in India, and its CEO NP Singh agreed with the vision of Tebas. “Our consistent efforts in acquiring marquee international properties and cultivating them has led viewers to recognise us as the home of football in India and the sub-continent. We are committed to supporting La Liga in its endeavours to grow the league and are introducing an additional primetime slot, which will enable fans to watch the best teams and players in action. Having seen an incredible start to the 2016-17 season, we are very confident of driving significant growth in viewership on both our on-air and digital platforms,” said Singh.
La Liga competing with EPL on a global scale
In the last few years, many European leagues and clubs have made inroads in India. Besides the English Premier League, which even organised a fan fest last year, German giants Bayern Munich and French champions Paris Saint-Germain have made sustained efforts to increase their reach and appeal in a growing power.
Tebas also spoke about other benefits the association between La Liga and India can have on football, chiefly, expertise, that the La Liga can lend which Indians can use to their advantage. La Liga will also be working towards making football academies and improving the level of coaching in India.
It is clear that the La Liga is competing with them on a global scale in a bid to increase its popularity and reach. India should benefit vastly from the competition between these big organisations, as it prepares itself to host the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017.