The ISL is set to get bigger in the coming days . According to a Time of India news report , the Tata Group is exploring the possibility of acquiring a franchise at an auction that is likely to be held in the next couple of months. This move comes in the wake of the possibility of the IMG-Reliance-run Indian Super League (ISL) looking to expand from eight to 10 teams from the coming season.
According to sources, the salt-to software enterprise is weighing in various aspects related to owning a franchise after IMG-Reliance approached the group’s leadership with a proposal. A source familiar with the development said Bombay House, the headquarters of the $104 billion Tata conglomerate, has yet to take a final decision.
If group chairman N Chandrasekaran goes for an ISL franchise, the brand will get an additional boost through its presence in this emerging sports segment. In the process, it will also bring two of India’s most well known corporate bigwigs on the same platform for the first time.
The ISL is set to be the premier football league in the country from next season, replacing the I-League, which will be relegated to the second division, or League One as it will be called. The ISL, which until now, in the words of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) was only a “tournament”, is expected to represent the country in Asian competitions. The league is also expected to run for five months rather than just three.
The three-edition old ISL currently has eight franchises based in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Goa, Kochi and Chennai. Should the Tata Group join the fray, it is likely to choose Jamshedpur as the home base. The group has been running the successful Tata Football Academy in Jamshedpur since 1987. The academy has produced players who have represented top clubs in the country and don national colours.
Tatas’ association with the sport though goes beyond their academy or having Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi as its global brand ambassador for Tata Motors. The group had a successful football team based in Bombay, now Mumbai, since Independence but shut shop in the ’80s. The Indian football team that took part in the 1960 Rome Olympics had three players from Tatas— Babu Narayan, Fortunato Franco and Dev Das.
The group has been relatively low-profile in an era when big corporate investments are changing the face of sporting events. So far Tatas have shied away from buying a cricket franchise in Indian Premier League (IPL), while its main association has been through Tata Open, one of the country’s major badminton tournaments. The group may step in to be the main sponsor of Mumbai Marathon that is Asia’s largest running event as reported by TOI on March 23.